Archive for the ‘suicide prevention’ Category




bolThe Myths Surrounding Police Suicide

It’s always good to dispel a few of the myths surrounding police suicide, some of which have been perpetuated to keep them hush-hush or carefully closeted within departments.



We Know How Many Police Suicides Happen Each Year


No one knows how many.No one.


Much of the fault lies with police departments themselves, who have done harm to their own officers by muddying the waters, concealing and misclassifying clear cases of suicides as “accidental” or “unknown cause.”


Regardless of which side of the argument one stands, one thing is clear–no formal program has been established by law enforcement to track these figures. This is shameful when you think thatdepartments are spending large amounts to solve a problem for which they have no useable data or reliable information.


Several private organizations claim to have The Numbers.The National Police Suicide Foundation is frequently quoted, for example, when it gives annual numbers (397 for 2007) and averages of 450 per year.Unfortunately, they are unable to back their number with any organized documentation, give numbers for previous years, dates of suicides, departments, ages, or time on the job.While well intentioned and perhaps of some informal use, we cannot give credibility to numbers that can’t be backed up.




Several private organizations claim to have “The Numbers.”The National Police Suicide Foundation is frequently quoted, for example, when it gives annual numbers (397 for 2007) and averages of 450 per year. Unfortunately, they are unable to back their number with any organized documentation, give numbers for previous years, dates of suicides, departments, ages, or time on the job.While well intentioned and perhaps of some informal use, we cannot give credibility to numbers that can’t be backed up.




Our position is that unsubstantiated data is worse than no data at all.


For more on this, as well as our recommendations, read the page “Sloppy Data.”



“PTSD must be traced to one big event.”


It can be.It’s nice and neat that way.Some police agencies are loathe to recognize the important role played by cumulative stress in police work—the daily wounding of the soul over years, over decades.Yes, cumulative stress is a real thing–ask an officer who has been crippled by it.Sadly, it’s the nature of police work and police officers are taught not to talk about it for fear of appearing weak.Banned from the locker room by a code of silence are phrases like:



“I was really afraid.”


“I didn’t know what to do.”


“I was lost.”


“I made a terrible mistake.”


“I wish I could have done something.”


“Sometimes I wonder if this is the job for me.”



Under the heading of “cumulative” are the repeated exposures to screams, to rotting cadavers, assaults, spittings and verbal abuse.


Cumulative PTSD, while still rejected by a few hardliners, has finally been accepted in the medical community as real and diagnosable. To quote one expert, “In some ways, a cop’s work may be even more traumatic than that of a soldier sent into a war zone.The police officer’s job, over many years, exposes and reexposes them to traumatic events that would make anybody recoil in horror.”



Law Enforcement is an Intimate “Family.”


If it is, it’s a classic of dysfunctional families.Law enforcement has always been a world of “dirty little secrets.”The armor must remain intact, at all costs.Even officers love shows like “NYPD Blue” because officers smash mirrors and rip towel racks off the walls in the rest room and call the district attorney “a bitch!”–and get away with it.“Angst” is the name of the game–and it’s great entertainment.In the real world, however, the cop knows she can’t rip down the towel rack–and knows it wouldn’t really help, anyway.



“When in emotional trouble, seek out your fellow officers.”


When you’re in emotional trouble, seek out the help of a licensed professional therapist or medical mental health professional!If you have a peer support officer program in your department, take advantage of them for guidance on how to find one.



“Suicide is an ‘angry act.”


Suicide is a painful act.No person wants to die. For some of us, however, the choices seem so few and the pain so great that the only way of finding escape from the pain seems to be suicide.When I exchanged my gun for the telephone and went to the hospital, my first step was to begin crying—the pain was that deep.No one had told me I could do that.I didn’t realize there was an alternative.



“When you retire, you can relax.”


The suicide rate for retired cops is frightening, and far higher than that of active duty officers.For medically retired officers (which includes those retired on PTSD) the suicide rate is even more shameful.The California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP) reports that the suicide ratefor retired officers triples that of the general population.For medically retired officers, they report, the suicide rate is believed to soar to phenomenal levels.




The California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP) reports that the suicide ratefor retired officers triples that of the general population.For medically retired officers, they report, the suicide rate is believed to soar to phenomenal levels.



Officers cling to the belief, in part based on truth, that they are part of a huge “family” (the ‘brotherhood’) during their careers.When they retire, they suddenly lose that family.They become a nuisance when they show up at their old office to join in coffee breaks.They are relegated to “retiree groups” that render some camaraderie, but which can never equal the feeling of “family” they once felt wearing the badge.


Worse, if they had the misfortune of being retired on a stress related injury, such as PTSD, they are regarded, as one officer said, “like the crazy aunt in the basement.” Some drink.Others lose relationships or engage in reckless behaviors.Some isolate and slide into depression.Average life expectancies are low, for officers.Many, as the figures show, choose to simply end it early.What is that telling us?That we have successfully put a band aid on their wounds, by golly, until we could sweep them away, forgotten and suicidal.


Badge of Life Staff:


1 EDITOR:  Andy O’Hara is a 24 year veteran of the CHP who spent his last day on the bedroom floor with his gun trying to decide whether to shoot himself in the mouth or side of the head.  Hospitalized twice with the effects of his post traumatic stress, he has both written on this topic and spoken to cadets of police agencies in his area.  Through those, he has realized the tremendous potential of a carefully planned, implanted message in this group.  O’Hara was the subject of a Sacramento Magazine article, Relieving the Trauma, in October, 2007.  In addition to his work on police trauma, O’Hara has been a freelance writer and journalist and maintains another site, “Jimston Publishing.” He has authored one book and is writing a second with Dick Augusta on police trauma and sucide.



ASSISTANT EDITOR: Richard (Dick) Augusta‘s career with the California Highway Patrol was cut short in his twelfth year  when, on a traffic stop, a felon got the drop on him and gunned him down.  Dick recovered from his serious wounds but when he tried to return to the road, he was haunted by the post traumatic stress that made him hypersensitive on traffic stops and fearful that he would overreact and harm an innocent person.  In spite of therapy, he was medically retired and now suffers a different kind of depression shared by many medical retirees who suffer not only financially but from feelings that they have been abandoned by their “family” and their wisdom dismissed as useless.  His story can be found in Randy Sutton’s, True Blue, Police Stories by Those Who Have Lived Them.   



3ASSISTANT EDITOR:  Michael Gotfried, was an officer in the California Highway Patrol and served in the San Francisco/Contra Costa offices.  He vividly recalls the moment he was run down by a motorist, sustaining severe injuries that required extensive surgery. He was disability retired in 2004.






 SENIOR MEMBER:   Ed Estes, CHP, retired on disability with 28 years from the Stockton Area.


A truck had overturned and the driver was dead, pinned in the driver’s seat.  Two brothers, ages 2 and 4, were trapped beyond the frantic efforts of Officer Estes and rescue personnel to reach them.  The children were talking softly, gently as diesel fuel poured into the cab and flooded the space occupied by the 2 year-old.  They continued their soft talk until, soon, the compartment filled and the boy was quiet.


The silence still haunts Ed 25 years later.  A survivor of a major trauma in Vietnam, as well, he brings a hard-won wisdom to our program.



Advisory Consultant:  Catherine Leon, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), is on staff to advise on program planning and development, technical/medical issues and speaking engagements/training when available.  Her experience with PTSD and knowledge of law enforcement issues bring valuable expertise to our program.


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The Bobs’ in My Life…

My brother Bob, an ex-navy man who saw action in Vietnam, and my friend, Bob, also a retired navy man, have much in common. Both are staunch conservatives. Both think I’m an old, tree hugging hippie type who’s just a bit looney tunes.

They both keep me around for comic relief. I supply plenty.

My friend Bob is still trying to bring me into the fold, so to speak. He sends Hillary & Obama cartoons, etc…. just in case I’m thinking of casting my vote for the democrates. My brother has stopped trying except for the odd article he sends once in a while, labeled “A Good Read”, which is always aimed at changing some of my bleeding heart, liberal views.

Note to both: I Haven’t Decided… and no, I won’t tell you who I’m thinking about voting for.

I like both of them a heck of a lot. They keep life interesting. ________________________________________________________________________________ Jeff Jeff’s gone back to work. Vacation over. Dogs are whining and pacing…. where’s daddy?! He gives the good treats! I’m chopped liver.

 Suzie is groaning softly under my chair… just in case I forget that she’s miserable. This phase usually lasts about 24 hours… then they get hungry enough to forgive me for not being daddy.

They also realize that the morning breakfast of scrambled eggs is a thing of the past… at least until their savior returns. ________________________________________________________________________________ The 132nd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

What a great way to spend the evening – invite a couple friends and fellow dog lovers over and have some tea (coffee for me, please), or a glass of wine and watch the 132nd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The show is Monday and Tuesday, February 11-12, 2008 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Individual breed judging will take place each day between the hours of 8:30 AM and 6PM. Of course, it is televised so that you can enjoy it at home.

The Group and Best In Show competition will be televised live on USA Network from 8-9 PM EST and continuing on CNBC from 9-11 PM EST Monday and live on USA Network from 8-11 PM EST Tuesday.

All Hound, Terrier, Non-Sporting and Herding breeds and varieties will be judged on Monday, with Groups judged on Monday evening.

All Sporting, Working, and Toy breeds and varieties will be judged on Tuesday, with Groups judged on Tuesday evening.

Best In Show will also be judged on Tuesday evening. Junior Showmanship preliminaries will be judged each afternoon, with the finals to be held at 7:30PM on Tuesday evening.

169 Breeds and Varieties will be judged in seven different groups during the day Monday and Tuesday*.

There are four new breeds eligible for the first time at Westminster in 2008: the Plott (Hound Group), the Tibetan Mastiff (Working), the Swedish Vallhund (Herding) and the Beauceron (Herding).

It is America’s Dog Show, first held here in 1877, and as has been the case for so very many of those years since, The Westminster Kennel Club reached its entry limit quickly for its 132nd Annual All Breed Dog Show February 11-12 at Madison Square Garden. Westminster’s total entry of 2,627 for its show, America’s second longest continuously held sporting event, comes from 48 states, the District of Columbia, and at least six foreign countries. Leading the way with the most entries are California (287) and New York (244). Rounding out the top ten states are New Jersey (170), Pennsylvania (167), Texas (151), Florida (130), Connecticut (122), Massachusetts (103), Maryland (92) and Virginia (80). Foreign entries came from Canada (75), Germany, Brazil, Columbia, Spain, Thailand, and Uruguay. However, many foreign bred dogs are entered from U.S. addresses, and in the final compilation there will be a number of additional foreign countries represented.

As in recent years, the entry limit of 2,500 dogs was reached quickly after the general entry process began on December 7. The final total entry includes 127 dogs entered in Junior Showmanship. Labrador Retrievers have the highest entry with 51; other large entries include German Shorthaired Pointers 40, Pugs 37, Golden Retrievers 36, Rhodesian Ridgebacks 35, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels 35, French Bulldogs 35, and Australian Shepherds 35. All of the 169 breeds and varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club will be represented at the show. There are 36 entries in four newly-recognized breeds competing for the first time at Westminster in 2008: the Plott (7 entries, Hound Group), the Tibetan Mastiff (13 entries, Working Group), the Beauceron (7 entries, Herding Group) and the Swedish Vallhund (9 entries, Herding Group).

The evening competition will be televised live each night at 8 PM (ET) on USA Network. Westminster, televised since 1948, is and always has been America’s most widely-watched live telecast of a dog show. It is the only dog show televised live in this country.

In addition, streaming video of the individual breed judging highlights is posted on the Westminster Web site for viewing within two hours of the completion of judging.

There are changes in the judging schedule from previous years. Breeds and varieties in the Hound, Terrier, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups will be benched and judged during the day on Monday, with Group competition that evening.

On Tuesday, breeds and varieties in the Sporting, Working and Toy Groups will be benched and judged, with judging of those Groups and Best In Show to be held Tuesday evening.

The breed judging schedule will be posted on http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org when finalized. Dr. J. Donald Jones of Marietta, GA will judge Best In Show, heading a judging panel of 32 judges from 19 states and Australia.

Mark it on your calendar! ________________________________________________________________________________ Last, I must mention Andy’s new site. http://www.badgeoflife.com/id13.html

 I was moved and amazed by Andy’s courage and caring. He defines the term “hero”.

Go there. I guarantee you’ll learn something.

Thank you, Andy. ________________________________________________________________________________ ASPCA GUIDE TO A PET-FRIENDLY VALENTINE’S DAY

ASPCA Guide to a Pet-Friendly Valentine's DayFebruary 14 is on its way—time to spoil your loved ones with gifts! But did you know that roses, chocolates and other candies can be harmful to your pets?

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