The National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide Develops High-demand Wellness Resources
By Brittany Bruner, Communications Specialist, Bureau of Justice Assistance National Training and Technical Assistance Center
Losing even one life to officer suicide is too many. To address this important issue, the Bureau of Justice Assistance created the National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide. In April 2019, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in partnership with the Education Development Center and with support from the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, convened the National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide (the Consortium). The Consortium consists of multidisciplinary experts representing law enforcement agencies, officers, and families; suicide prevention and mental health; academia; and more. After conducting extensive research and convening several in-person and virtual meetings, the Consortium developed recommendations and complimentary resources to address existing gaps in training and approaches to preventing law enforcement suicide. The following is a summary of the Consortium’s findings and newly produced resources.
Create an Environment that Is Supportive of Mental Health and Wellness
The Consortium’s February 2020 Issue Brief, Preventing Suicide Among Law Enforcement Officers, states that law enforcement officers experience many job-related stressors, including severely traumatic events that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use, and thoughts of suicide. Police agencies can help by creating a supportive environment that removes the barriers for mental health and wellness, providing access to competent and confidential resources, and fostering help-seeking within departments, social circles, and the community. The Issue Brief focuses on several key topics related to suicide prevention: prevalence, risk and protective factors, challenges to suicide prevention, suicide prevention strategies and best practices, and knowledge gaps. The overall attitude and culture at the agency can make a difference in whether an officer will seek help.
Implement a Comprehensive Wellness Approach to Prevent Officer Suicide
The National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide Toolkit includes several resources that provide agencies a holistic approach to addressing safety and wellness and preventing officer suicide. The Comprehensive Framework for Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide, included in the toolkit, outlines multiple evidence-based strategies for preventing law enforcement suicide. These strategies, once combined, provide agencies with a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention and are umbrellaed under three categories: lead, assist, and support. Some of the components include creating a leadership culture that supports mental health, providing positive messaging, building resilience and healthy coping skills, managing stress, identifying those at risk, normalizing help-seeking, and offering support.
Create Meaningful Messaging
The way law enforcement leaders talk about mental wellness and suicide contributes to the agency’s overall safety and wellness culture. The Messaging About Suicide Prevention in Law Enforcement: Strategies for Effective and Positive Messaging resource provides approaches for messaging about suicide, including planning a strategy, fostering safety by avoiding potentially harmful content, promoting positive narratives, and following messaging guidelines from trusted sources. An integral component to these resources is support and buy-in from people who regularly interact with officers, including police chiefs and command staff, front line supervisors, peers, and families.
Implement Coordinated Peer Support
Peer Support as a Powerful Tool in Law Enforcement Suicide Prevention provides tips for developing a trained peer support team, including members from every rank level if possible, that develop necessary skills to offer both peer support and prevent officer suicide. Access to training is a key part to these efforts, since peers will support individuals with unique challenges, and it may be difficult to safely address those challenges. In addition to implementing a trained peer support team, the resource provides tips for “supporting the supporters,” since the mental health and overall wellness of peer supporters should also be a priority and consideration for the agency.
Plan Your Response to Law Enforcement Suicide
If a law enforcement member dies by suicide, it is important to have a plan in place for addressing the complex factors following the death, including providing compassionate support to family members and others in the law enforcement community. After a Suicide in Blue: A Guide for Law Enforcement Agencies helps agencies develop a postvention plan.
To tie all of their efforts together, the Consortium released the National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide: Final Report, which outlines the Consortium’s recommendations for creating a culture of safety and wellness and advancing the law enforcement profession’s suicide prevention efforts. These recommendations can serve as a guide to help your agency meet its individual needs. As your agency considers the best ways to use these resources, securing buy-in from leadership, implementing a comprehensive approach, and creating a widespread culture of wellness are vital steps in creating a safe environment and preventing law enforcement suicide.
If your agency is interested in learning more about the efforts of the National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide, or about preventing officer suicide within your agency, please contact the International Association of Chiefs of Police at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your jurisdiction is in need of training or technical assistance related to preventing law enforcement suicide or supporting officer wellness efforts, or if you know of a community that would benefit from this type of assistance, please contact BJA NTTAC at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov and we will work to connect you to the appropriate training, assistance, TTA partner, and/or resources.
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