Breaking the Silence: Suicide Prevention in Law Enforcement
Today, as part of Suicide Prevention Month, as an expanded collaborative effort, the partnership is releasing a video facilitation training guide for law enforcement agencies. The guide can be downloaded as a free PDF by clicking here.
Firefighters Coping with the Aftermath of Suicide
Let me thank you for your personal dedication to keeping our communities safe. The job you do and the things you deal with and witness are not easy. When dealing with a suicide attempter’s families please realize there are so many variables. Handle the family with compassion and care. They did not commit a crime and should not be treated as though they did.
- The family member(s) could have been unaware and not seen any warning signs their loved ones displayed about feeling suicidal. They could be in such shock and disbelief that they are unable to respond or be helpful.
- They could have had their loved one threaten suicide on a weekly basis for years and say things like, “You won’t have to worry about me anymore. I am going to go and kill myself.” When family members are faced with this situation it is difficult to know when they should call for help.
- Please do not criminalize their loved ones. Asking questions such as, “What lead up to the suicide attempt?” or “Were you arguing?” reinforces the thoughts and fear that the loved one is to blame for the attempt. I understand the reasoning behind such questions. Logically we all want to know the answer to the question “Why?” but that is not an answer we will ever receive.
Please try to understand the stress that is placed on family members of loved ones who attempt suicide. Do not add to the stress by making them jump through hoops, return multiple phone calls and several trips to the station. Things like returning the attempters belongings should take one trip. Do not force the family member to make multiple trips to the station to retrieve things like shoes, the weapon used, wallets, jewelry and other personal items that they had with them at the time of the attempt. Do not make several phone calls asking the same questions as follow up during your investigation. Do not make the loved one deal with only one officer. I understand that this may be easiest for you but when a loved one is requested to come to the station to retrieve the belongings of their loved one on a certain day at a certain time and then you are unavailable or your schedule has changed it victimizes the family.
When notifying loved ones of a suicide attempt the same care should be taken as when someone is lost to death in any manner. Do not make a phone call notifying the family their loved one attempted and they need to come to the hospital. A personal trip should be made to the house of the loved one to notify them and then the loved one should be escorted to the hospital. Loved ones should not be left in their state of shock and fear to drive themselves to the hospital or to try to find a ride.
This is important. If you feel very affected by a suicide attempt ask for help. Sometimes the things you see my make you extremely angry and you may have thoughts that don’t make any sense to you. This is common and not something to be ashamed of but you must ask for help if you need it.
Please research the section for Loved Ones for more information on self-care and ways to stay well and balanced. Just because you may not have a connection or have known the attempter before the attempt does not mean the job you do will not have an effect on you.
Please read this article.