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Introduce, Discuss, and Analyze: Suicide in Police Officers

The suicide of police officers is a growing problem in the United States, and it is a problem that is rarely discussed openly. The National Police Suicide Foundation states, "The numbers of deaths due to suicide are two to three times the number of line of duty deaths among law enforcement agencies and emergency workers" (Douglas). Other researchers note that in 1986, the national average rate of suicide was 12.8 per 100,000. However "Various police suicide rates have been reported: 80 per 100,000 for the New York Police Department; 203 per 100,000 for the state of Wyoming; 17.9 per 100,000 for the St. Louis Police Department; and 0 per 100,000 for the Denver Police Department" (Beigel and Russell 236) during various studies done prior to 1990. Clearly, the rates of suicide among police officers in most areas are higher than the statistics for the general population. Many reasons for this incidence of suicide exist, including the high stress levels of the job, the difficulty in maintaining personal, off-duty relationships, and the inability to discuss much of what the officers experiences in their day-to-day work. Two researchers into policing note a wide variety of reasons police officers face greater risk of suicide than other occupations. These include the officers' shift work which often precludes relationships and community involvement, public apathy and antipathy, often "demoralizing" experiences in the criminal justice system, the constant and real facing of death everyday, the carrying of firearms that makes suicide readily available, and the predominance of males in the police force, who have a higher suicide rate than females (Kenney and McNamara 95-96). The resulting stress can lead to a variety of coping reactions, from depression to alcoholism, divorce, and even suicide. This inability to cope with stress is not unusual, as one expert notes, "Research has shown just the opposite...

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