By Saul Roth
The New Health Guide rates suicide rates by profession. Police officers rank among the top 10 professions. Doctors are number one at a rate of 2 to 4%. Upon closer evaluation of the literature, however, it appears that only White doctors were evaluated.
When the population of Black males is evaluated, Black police officers have the highest suicide rate (New Health Guide, 2014). Their rate is two and a half times higher than the general population. What this suggests is that suicide is a problem with police officers.
Further study is needed to investigate the extent of the problem, however. Therefore, the question that I would like to answer is: Why are police officers committing suicide in large numbers? Is the stress of police work causing these police officers to commit suicide? There are many factors to be studied, including the stresses of the police position, the police administration, domestic life as it relates to the officer’s position, Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol and drug abuse, peer pressure, and violence.
There has been much research on suicide in the past century. Freud in 1917 and Menninger in 1938 completed studies on suicide. However, most studies have focused on severely depressed individuals in a clinical setting (as cited in Chae & Boyle, 2013).
Today, most suicides are still from depression. Depression is a biochemical illness. People who commit suicide usually experience an event on or away from work. Before the suicide, people may experience anger, hopelessness, or vengefulness. The suicidal person loses his or her sense of self. He or she wants to die to end the emotional pain. Suicide usually occurs amidst a crisis. As time goes on, the stigma of the event might subside.
For the person committing suicide, death is a permanent solution to a temporary problem (Kelly & Rich, 2006). Suicide is now becoming a worldwide epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2006 that suicide is the 15th leading cause of death in the United States. The Association of Suicidology (2006) reported that in 2002, there were 31,655 suicides.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported the same number of suicides for 2002. That same year there were 17, 638 homicides, thus making the suicide rate for the general population was almost double the number of homicides in the U.S. (Kelly, 2006).
Moreover, in developing countries, suicide is the 16th leading cause of death and is usually carried out by hanging (World Health Organization, 2004).
By contrast, in the U.S., most suicides are by firearm. In fact, in the U.S., 52% of suicides are by handgun. The most likely reason for this is that many people in the U.S. own handguns. It is much easier to obtain a handgun in the U.S. than in any other country in the world.
Most police officers are in possession of a handgun, giving him or her easy access to a method of suicide. About 90% of police officers commit suicide with a handgun (Chae, 2013).