Twenty-Two Veterans commit suicide every day. This statistic is sad, and something should be done to correct it. The number comes from a Veterans Affairs study that looked at death certificates of all service members who were currently serving or had served in Active Duty, the National Guard, or the Reserves. This should be an issue both political spectrums unite under.
Have you heard of this statistic? One hundred and fifty-nine.
One hundred and fifty-nine U.S. Law Enforcement Officers committed suicide last year. Do you know how many officers died in the line of duty in 2018? One hundred and forty-five.
More U.S. Law Enforcement Officers commit suicide than those that die in the line of duty. This has been true for the past three years.
Often, we focus on those who currently protect us from foreign enemies— and rightly so. However, may I suggest we also look at those that protect our streets from the enemies within?
We all know that many amongst our society harbor animosity towards law enforcement and this animosity was exemplified when the Ferguson riots began. Since then, demonstrations, mobs, riots, shootings, and murders have continued and have specifically targeted law enforcement officers in certain incidents. But, even with all these issues, the real enemy of law enforcement is, well, themselves.
No, I am not talking about corrupt cops. The mind is every law enforcement officer’s worst enemy.
It is a tough job. Much like firefighters and other emergency medical personnel, law enforcement officers see the worst of humanity on a daily basis. On average, there are currently 900,000 law enforcement officers serving within the United States.
Studies suggest that, on average, nineteen percent to thirty-four percent of all law enforcement personnel suffer from some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Why such a wide gap? Simply put, much like the military, those who serve and protect often don’t want to admit when they themselves need help. But, what does it feel like to be a law enforcement officer? Why do so many law enforcement personnel commit suicide?
Imagine always having a target on your back, always having to be aware of those around you. Do they have a weapon? Are they going to run? Will they try to kill me? Could I take them if we get into a fight? These are questions law enforcement officers have to ask themselves constantly.
To you, sitting down with your loved ones in a restaurant to eat a good meal is relaxing. To them, sitting down with their loved ones in a restaurant to eat a good meal means adding loved ones into the scenario of an armed robbery or crazy lunatic with a vendetta against the restaurant or the officer. There is no rest, even their homes may not be a harbor against the storm. Will the gang member tell his fellow gang members who I was? Do they know where I live? Will this be the night they try to kill me?
A simple bump in the night could mean life or death. Always being ready is how they are trained because all it takes is a split second for a normal day to turn into their last day.
Law enforcement officers see death. They watch as others pass from this world onto the next– sometimes dealing it out themselves in a desperate attempt to stay alive. They see children who have been raped, families killed by drunk drivers, and the elderly abandoned. They see anger, fear, rage, sadness, and joy all within hours of each other.
They’ve heard the wailing of a mother as she sees her son gunned down in a drive-by. They’ve heard the curses of the father towards his very own daughter for calling the police because she’s been abused one too many times. They see the worst of humanity and keep going.
This constant elevated situational awareness and emotional roller coaster take its toll on the body, mind, and spirit. Some officers turn to alcohol or other depressants. Some officers turn to violence. Some officers distance themselves from others because they don’t want to be a “burden” to them.
It can cause an emotional downward spiral that ultimately leads them to one conclusion: I cannot go on, it is time for me to die.
In training, they are taught to be situationally aware and they are also taught to seek counseling. Many law enforcement officers seek counseling on a regular basis, and it’s how they make it through the daily grind of seeing the worst of the worst.
Next time you see an officer, think of that statistic: one hundred and fifty-nine. Say a prayer for that warrior because he or she fights an inward battle— one many have not won.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.