New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill has declared a “mental health crisis” after the third NYPD officer to commit suicide in 10 days was found dead Friday on Staten Island.
“This is a mental-health crisis. And the NYPD & the law enforcement profession as a whole absolutely must take action. We must take care of each other; we must address this issue — now,” O’Neill tweeted.
This is a mental-health crisis. And the NYPD & the law enforcement profession as a whole absolutely must take action. We must take care of each other; we must address this issue — now. Please take my statement below to heart & help yourself, your loved ones, & your colleagues. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/urHuzIiiFb
— Commissioner O’Neill (@NYPDONeill) June 15, 2019
O’Neill also issued a statement urging NYPD officers to reach out for help.
“In less than 10 days’ time, the NYPD has lost three of its own to suicide: a respected chief, an experienced detective, and — today about 3:50 p.m. outside the Staten Island precinct at which he worked — a promising, 29-year-old police officer,” he said in the Friday statement, according to the New York Post.
“This is a mental-health crisis. And we — the NYPD and the law enforcementprofession as a whole — absolutely must take action. This cannot be allowed to continue,” he added.
“Cops spend so much of their days assisting others. But before we can help the people we serve, it is imperative that we first help ourselves. There is no shame in seeking assistance from the many resources available, both inside and outside the department. Accepting help is never a sign of weakness — in fact, it’s a sign of great strength,” he said.
“Please, connect yourself or your friends and colleagues to the assistance that is so close by. We must take care of each other. We must address this issue — now — because it will not go away on its own. We must speak out. And we must end this crisis, together,” O’Neill concluded.
Police say NYPD Officer Michael Caddy, 29, died Friday when he shot himself inside a car near the 121st Precinct station house on Staten Island, where he was assigned, the New York Daily Newsreported.
He was found by an off-duty officer.
Caddy is the third NYPD officer believed to have committed suicide this month.
On June 5, Deputy Chief Steven Silks was found dead in Forest Hills Stadium in Queens of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Silks, 62, had been facing mandatory retirement next month.
On June 6, Detective Joseph Calabrese, 58, was found dead near Plumb Beach in Brooklyn, also of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
His car had been found empty earlier in the day.
The three deaths bring the total number of NYPD suicides in 2019 to four. Four NYPD officers also committed suicide in 2018, according to The New York Times.
A 2018 white paper by the Ruderman Family Foundation noted that police officers and firefighters are at an elevated risk of suicide.
“Suicide is a result of mental illness, including depression and PTSD, which stems from constant exposure to death and destruction,” the report’s summary said.
“One study included in the white paper found that on average, police officers witness 188 ‘critical incidents’ during their careers,” the summary added.
“This exposure to trauma can lead to several forms of mental illness. For example, PTSD and depression rates among firefighters and police officers have been found to be as much as 5 times higher than the rates within the civilian population, which causes these first responders to commit suicide at a considerably higher rate.”
“First responders are heroes who run towards danger every day in order to save the lives of others. They are also human beings, and their work exerts a toll on their mental health,” Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said.
“It is our obligation to support them in every way possible — to make sure that they feel welcome and able to access life-saving mental health care. This white paper should serve as a critical call to action to all who care about our heroes in red and blue,” he added.
The summary cited “the shame and stigma surrounding mental health within professions that prioritize bravery and toughness” as reasons that police officers and firefighters do not access mental health services and said “the public remains largely unaware of these issues, since the vast majority of first responder suicides are not covered by the mainstream media.”
“We need to end the silence that surrounds the issue of first responder mental health. We should celebrate the lives of those lost to suicide — at national monuments such as the National Law Enforcement Memorial, in the media, and within police and fire departments around the country,” Ruderman said.