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As in many organizations, the common viewpoint among police officers and supervisors that referral to a mental health professional meant the loss of one's job. The perception prevented the victim from taking the proper action. The victim's superiors would attempt to help or protect him by denying the reality of his problem. As a result, the victim was denied the help he needed. These superiors were unduly concerned about the threat to employment and economic security (Baker and Baker).
The department should educate its officers and personnel on depression and suicide (Baker and Baker, 1996). They should be told that seeking help would not make them lose their job or end their career. It could even improve their job and career. A program of education should emphasize that asking for help was a sign of strength and not weakness. But such a program would work only if the entire department would take advantage of its benefits. Police administrators and supervisors should refrain from imposing punishment. They should instead impress upon their officers that they can solve their problems together. Seeking help would not mean job loss. Information on their problem would be kept strictly confidential. Their problem had a solution rather than hopeless. And there would always be someone who could help. These messages should be consistently communicated to all potential victims in police trainings, as a departmental policy and in the everyday behavior of their superiors (Baker and Baker).
Many of those who successfully took their own lives had mixed feelings about dying (Baker and Baker, 1996). Studies showed that 75% of them wrote notes about their intention to destroy themselves. Suicidal police officers usually showed warning signs, such as sadness, frustration, disappointment, grief, alienation, depression, loneliness, physical pain, mental agony and mental illness. But the strongest warning sign would be a failed suicide attempt. The more recent the attempt made, the greater the risk. An officer's failure to perform satisfactorily could produce a major depressive attack. Depression, which links to or results in suicide, is often a deeper and longer-term condition. The officer could experience changes in appetite or weight. He might lose sleep or change sleeping pattern. He might be less active and feel worthless or guilty. He might find it hard to think, concentrate and make decisions or entertain thoughts of ending everything. Then he could plan or attempt suicide. Persistent anger or angry outbursts and blaming over minor occurrences could indicate severe distress (Baker and Baker).
Supervisors and managers should evaluate the situation or problem and interview the officer who manifests these signs (Baker and Baker, 1996). His body language, facial expressions and moods should be carefully observed. The most important indicators are hopelessness and helplessness. An expression of hopelessness and helplessness reflected the lack of hope in his life. He perceived himself as unable to change his situation. This is when the person could begin to act on his condition by destroying himself. He could also perceive of suicide as retrieving his former strength, courage and control over his environment. Supervisors should explore the officer's history for suicidal behavior, mental illness, chronic depression, multiple divorces and alcohol abuse. The officer could be suffering from some loss, drug abuse or extreme stress. An older officer would be afflicted with some physical condition or fear impending retirement or social isolation. These can produce the critical feelings of hopelessness and helplessness (Baker and Baker).
Many potential suicides would want to be saved without seeking assistance or specifying the help they needed (Baker and Baker, 1996). They were actually confused about getting rid of themselves. They needed a strong authority to give them direction and help them make sense of his trouble. Supervisors should take advantage of this confusion. They should immediately offer them support and assistance. Officers in this mental state are quite suggestive and responsive to the direction given. They should assert their authority in ordering the officers on what action should take. Supervisors should also require the officers to comply with their direction (Baker and Baker).
A supervisor's intervention should end with a referral to a mental health professional (Baker and Baker, 1996). It should be carefully planned so as to avoid violence. A depressed officer could take it on the supervisor himself, his fellow employees or their families. Homicide could occur and suicide could follow it. A supervisor should be able to refer the potential victim to a certified mental health professional. He should monitor the officer's condition and make sure he would be provided with continued support and counseling where he would be directed (Baker and Baker).
There is a new and direct suicide intervention method called the QPR (Quinnett 1998). It consists of three steps. The first step investigates possible suicidal communications. The second convinces the victim to accept help. The third consists of referring him to a skilled mental health professional. While it takes time for the officer's trouble to develop, he would be open to a brief, passing and remedial intervention right before the potential suicide attempt. An intervening supervisor should confront the officer's decision or plan to destroy himself. When he does, he should also make an immediate referral and an agreement with the officer to refrain from killing himself (Quinnett).
Three things could help prevent a possible suicide (Quinnett, 1998). A supervisor's training in suicide intervention and prevention, timely intervention, and the availability of mental resources and support. A supervisor could elicit better response from the victim than his own family or closest kin, who would often express fear, denial, avoidance or passivity. These responses would tend to increase or strengthen the officer's sense of isolation, helplessness and hopelessness. And there should be accessible and appropriate mental health resource to both the supervisor and the potential victim. Easy access to a safe, tolerant but effective health professional could deflect the resistance of many officers who actually wanted to get help (Quinnett).
The method chosen to commit suicide was shown to be connected to the person's values, personal identity, training and the availability of the method (Quinnett, 1998). The anesthesiologist would use drugs, pilots fly an aircraft, and members of law enforcement institutions would use firearms. Using a firearm renders the victim virtually beyond rescue, resuscitation or a second chance because he dies as a result. Research now knows a lot more about persons, specifically police officers, who opt for self-destruction than those 10 years ago. It should also continue to investigate psychological conditions, which drive police officers to end their own lives (Quinnett).
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