Psychologist: New Jersey Police Suicides ‘An Epidemic’

TRENTON, NJ (WCBS 880) – At least five active or retired police officers in New Jersey have committed suicide so far this year.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney On Cops And Therapy

Psychologist Dr. Eugene Stefanelli says the state averages 12-15 cop suicides a year. “We stop at least twenty. To me, that’s an epidemic.”

Representatives from police suicide prevention hotline COP 2 COP say that over 180 have been stopped in 10 years, which is good.

Stefanelli says the main problems are “moral, administrative, financial problems at home, relationships.”

Stefanelli, who works with police officers and the police union, says therapists cannot treat them like other patients. “Cops, on a whole, don’t trust. They’re afraid to go and see anyone [and get] any kind of therapeutic help, because they’re afraid of losing their job. They’re afraid somebody’s not going to understand what’s going on.”

The number for the COP 2 COP confidential help line is 866-COP-2COP (267-2267).

More from Levon Putney
  • Pat Johnson

    This goes along with the unusual high suicide rates of our military because
    of Iraq and Afghanistan , Cops like our present armed forces fight an enemy that
    has no uniform or flag when it turns on you unlike the defined enemies of
    the Second World War for the military and yes ,the world once had a criminal
    usually with a pistol if that and six bullet rounds .
    More of course can be said
    of the changes in street morality we deal with as well.

  • Don Bergmann

    This isn’t an unusual problem. The police are often told to enforce absurd laws which are created to enrich one segment of the population at the expense of another. Also, increasingly you have the feeling of entitlement in the past few generations of kids, generated by a ‘feel good’ society which was afraid to hurt their esteem. It adds up to a no-win situation where cops are blamed for keeping order and given no respect either by their superiors or the public at large.

  • kendra

    and maybe if they think and act like normal people they wouldn,t have these problems cause most of them act like they are above the law…some not all cops are “reaping what they sew”….

  • kendra

    that,s terrible that they have that problem and they need to get more help with this particular issue cause it,s getting bad..

  • lawrence

    very good point- all cops are bad and therefore deserve to go to hell.

  • pete

    i hate cops i hope they all go to hell after they kill their stupid selves

  • Andy O'Hara

    Thanks–an interesting point, as far as “morale.” Unfortunately, there is absolutely no evidence to support that as a leading cause of police suicides, either. Again, the fault lies with police departments, who refuse to investigate the true causes of police suicides when they happen. By this refusal to share and learn from experience, they actually cost more police lives.

    With the exception of a few limited studies, the true causes of police suicide will remain a mystery and a matter of ignorance and stigma. We continue to press for otherwise and are met with yawns, but we don’t give up easily. We hope readers will help.

  • D. Holm

    Is it in fact “moral” or could that be a typographical error for “morale”. From my law enforcement experience, the latter is endemic in law enforcement agencies and by far the more likely.

  • Andy O'Hara

    There are no studies or evidence to suggest that “moral” problems are a leading cause of police suicides. These “causes” are guesswork, because departments refuse to look into them and provide us the needed data. The few studies that have been tried suggest that, while relationships are one cause, many are simply symptomatic of job stress and trauma. One study, Aamodt and Stalnacker, finds that as many as 20% of police suicides are related to the job–but police chiefs refuse to even consider this. “Can’t happen,” they say.

    Labeling cops by calling them immoral and poor family people is merely another way of stigmatizing mental illness by blaming the victim. Until organizations “get ahead of the game” by creating a healthy police force, instead of waiting until the officer is in trouble and it’s too late, we will continue to see this continuing trend of tragedy. Sad indeed.

  • LInda Leonard

    The tragedy of police suicide touches all of us. One wonders if these individuals who are in such pain were too overwhelmed by the stigma of sucidie to ask for help. One wonders if they only knew that free, ANONOYMOUS and confidential help was availalbe. At Long Island Crisis Center, we have reached out to Police precincts in our community to let them know we are available to provide suicide prevention counseling 24 hours/7 day a week.

  • AlmostThere

    Makes it sound like cops are people too…..which they are…..sort of…..but suicide has become an epidemic in the larger society, and this should be the main focus of attention….not just one, very small group of humans in the larger picture of society……the reasons stated for suicide of cops is the same as “regular moe and joe’z”

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