A new report finds that the Chicago Police Department has a suicide rate 60 percent higher than the national average.
The study found that of the 10,000 officer force up to three CPD officers per year commit suicide, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The CPD’s suicide rate corresponds with the extreme level of violence seen in the Windy City. Last year Chicago’s murder rate was higher than that of New York and Los Angeles combined.
“There is a problem, and nobody’s doing anything about it,” Ron Rufo, a peer support counselor, told the paper. “Supervisors don’t talk about it. The rank-and-file don’t talk about it. And it’s like the administration does not want to admit it’s a problem.”
Psychologist Alexa James also noted that CPD officers are living in what many might consider a “war zone” but aren’t getting the mental health treatment they need.
“It is a hard, hard job, and police officers get very little support,” she insisted.
The Times reported that there are only three full-time counselors for the entire 10,000-officer force. In contrast, the LAPD has 11 clinicians on staff for an even smaller force.
One problem identified is an Illinois anti-gun law that prevents anyone who has had mental health issues from being able to gain a firearms license. Because of this law many officers feel reticent to engage a mental health provider for fear of losing the license they need to remain a police officer. Illinois is one of the few states to impose such a law on mental health patients.
“But that’s the Catch-22,” psychologist Marla Friedman said. Police “are afraid if they go to counseling, they’ll lose their job forever. But if they hold it in, they can stay on the job. And then they snap. Which is safer?”
“This is a real problem,” Friedman added. “Police officers are the only class of citizen in the U.S. who is going to lose their job for seeking mental health care.”
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