I pray this letter reaches you in good and sound health. I also want to use this opportunity to appreciate the good work you’re doing for mother Ghana. God bless you and continue to give you more grace. Without you, we wouldn’t be enjoying the peace we’re enjoying today. Thank you.
My letter to you is just a concern I want to share with you.
First of all, I will want to remind you that despite you are a law enforcement agency, you equally operate with, body, heart, blood and flesh which is susceptible to stress and weakness.
Policing is a psychologically stressful work environment filled with danger, high demands, ambiguity in work encounters, human misery and exposure to death. (University of Buffalo, 2008)
It also comes with a high levels of different kinds of anxiety disorders ranging from simple stress to high grade of post traumatic stress disorders.
The pressures of law enforcement put officers at risk for high blood pressure, insomnia, increased levels of destructive stress hormones, heart problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide. (J. M. Violanti, 2008)
According to the world health organization (WHO), Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 48,000 lives in 2018 alone.Suicidal thoughts and behaviours affect persons of all ages,
leading to long-lasting effects on families, friends, workplaces, and communities.
Law enforcement professionals are not immune to this serious public health problem.
Studies suggest that suicide rates are particularly high among officers and others in public safety occupations. Although the exact number of officers who die by suicide each year is not currently known, existing research suggests that officers may be more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
The case of Ghana is no difference. This has become a concern and a worry because it seems much attention has not been drawn to this aspects of the profession which to an extent is accounting to our increasing number of police suicide and suicide attempts being reported on the daily. It is a high time particular attention is given to this evil in our society.
Suicide doesn’t just happen spontaneously. It always have a cause and a greater factor contributing to it is depression formed from stress. The over expectancy of dependents among others.
Supervisors, fellow officers, family members and friends can all be valuable resources in identifying officers in distress who may be at risk for suicide.
Clues may be few or many, verbal or behavioral, direct or indirect, with any combination possible.
Dr. Laurence Miller (2007) conducted a research and came up with some warning signs exhibited by officers when they are contemplating suicide. Let’s see few of them.
Verbal self-threats can be direct: “I’d be better off eating my gun;” or indirect: “Enjoy the good times while you can—they never last.”
Often, self-loathing is transmuted into hostility toward others, especially toward those believed to be responsible for the officer’s plight.
Verbal threats against others can be direct: “I oughta cap that damn lieutenant for writing me up;” or indirect: “People with that kind of attitude deserve whatever’s coming to them.”
Nothing to lose.
The officer behaves insubordinately, without regard to career repercussions: “I’ll drink or smoke what I want, on or off duty. So what if I pee positive? What are they gonna do—fire me? Arrest me? Shoot me?” Or he recklessly puts himself in danger on the job—a kind of “passive suicide.”
The officer may fear his own impulses, but be reluctant to admit it: “As long as I’m on desk duty this week, can I keep my gun in my locker? It’s a pain to lug it around the station.”
This is the exact opposite pattern: the officer begins carrying more than one backup weapon, or begins to keep especially powerful weapons in his vehicle or on his person, supposedly “for protection.”
Cry for help.
“Things are getting too hairy out here; I think I may need to check into the Bug Hilton to get my act together.”
Brotherhood of the damned.
“You know that news story about the cop in Ohio who killed his family and himself? I know how that poor bastard felt.”
“My wife just left me, my checks are bouncing, I’m drinking again, and the Internal Affairs ferrets are crawling up my butt. I just can’t take all this.”
No way out.
“If that Review Board burns me again, that’s my last strike. I could go to jail for just trying to do my job? No friggin’ way that’s happening.”
Without necessarily saying anything, the officer may be observed making or changing a will, paying off debts, showing an increased interest in religion, giving away possessions, making excessive donations to charities, and so on.
The goodbye messages
Some officers may be verbalising to colleagues that they will be traveling or missing soon but can’t say exactly where they’re going to.
Abuse of alcohol or other substances.
Some officers may start heavy drinking or taking other illicit drugs which they are not known for.
Some may be enjoying loneliness than usual among others.
A person may show a big change in mood, behaviour or appearance, for example:
• Expressing, in words or actions:
- hopelessness or feeling that their life is worthless
- having no reason to live or no purpose in life
- no interest in or plans for the future
- fear of being involuntarily removed or returned to home
country, especially if there is a risk of torture or death
- strong sense of feeling alone and cut off, even if surrounded by family or friends
- distress about intrusive memories of past traumatic events
- feeling that their life has been a failure and they would have
been better off in their home country
- feelings of guilt or shame, or belief of being a burden to others
(e.g. saying “others will be better off without me”).
• Withdrawing from friends, family or the community.
• Suddenly becoming very sad or a sad person becomes much more depressed.
Preventing Police Suicides
Inasmuch as the best form of crisis intervention is crisis prevention, there is much that law enforcement agencies can do address officer depression and suicide.
According to (Miller, 2007)
First and foremost, the problem needs to come out in the open. Both command and line officers need to educate themselves as to the nature of police stress, syndromes of impairment, and good and bad ways of coping.
Next, officers should receive training in crisis intervention skills that they can apply to fellow officers in a similar way as they do with distressed citizens on patrol. This is, in fact, the rationale behind the peer counseling programs that have been set up in many departments.
Station commanders should occasionally invite psychologists or mental health professional to give health education at the stations and also make time for mental state examinations periodically. That can help inform officers of the signs of stress and its related issues. (Jones, 2021)
Also, supervisors must be alert to signs of depression and other problems that are affecting the officers under their command.
Finally, there has to be a convenient and non-stigmatized system for referring distressed officers for psychological or mental health support, and this must be framed in health-maintenance context, not as a disciplinary procedure. Visiting a mental health facility does not mean the individual is “mad” as perceived by many.
There’s more to talk about but let’s continue another time. We have psychologists, professional counsellors and mental health professionals all across the country. Let’s make use of them.
I am also using this opportunity to appeal to government to engage the services of psychologists and equally make mental health a priority. When these things are put in place, life would be worth living. Shall the good Lord give you strength wherever you are. Continue to trust him for nothing lasts forever. With time, everything will work out for your good. Suicide is not an option.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make us great and strong. Amen.
FirstCare Ghana….. It could be you.