NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The sister of an NYPD officer who took his own life this week says her brother never got the help he needed.
Robert Echeverria, 56, was the ninth NYPD officer to die by apparent suicide so far this year.
Eileen Echeverria says a visit from the NYPD days after her brother killed himself came too late.
“It’s an epic failure. They’re responsible. They don’t want their officers to get help,” Echeverria told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
She says she alerted internal affairs about her brother’s mental health six times over the past 10 years. She most recently contacted them in June of this year.
In one email, she wrote “he is suicidal” and expressed concerns about his guns.
“My brother was suicidal and homicidal. My brother is unraveling. He has serious financial stress. You have to help him,” Echeverria said.
The department said it would investigate, but Robert Echeverria was cleared and his guns were returned in two days.
“I tried. I begged you. I went to you, and you blew it off and said he’s fine, and now my brother’s dead,” Echeverria said,
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” retired NYPD veteran Michael Gilligan said.
Gilligan says the public can’t begin to understand the stress of the job.
“Confronting danger, going into places nobody wants to go into,” he said. “They’re throwing buckets of water on them … We live in a culture today that is just, you know, has demonized police. We’re not immune to it … We want to believe that, like, you know, as the centurions of the streets that we could handle anything, including our own problems.”
During his 24 years on the beat, Gilligan went to see a “cop doc,” as they call it, but he says there is often a price to pay.
“We need to have the resources to go to without the repercussions from the job or the stigma, you know, placing labels on us,” Gilligan said.
Robert Echeverria was assigned to the police sector that responds to terror attacks.
“Financial stress, the stress of the job where police are being spit on and everything else,” Eileen Echeverria said. “My brother’s unraveling, and they said no.”
She says she’s speaking out to bring change.
“They can’t go to anybody because it’s that thin blue line. My brother was terrified to go. He was going to lose his job,” she said.
She wants cops to be offered regular therapy.
Gilligan has another idea.
“I’d be willing to take phone calls from a guy to help him out, and maybe that’s what’s necessary … Guys who are retired, who understand, who have been thought stuff,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the NYPD says it’s investigating Echeverria’s case. The department has made a suicide prevention training video that must be viewed by every member.
The police commissioner has declared a mental health crisis in the department and has urged the ranks to seek help.
The NYPD has listed the following resources for officers in need of help:
- Employee Assistance Unit: 646-610-6730
- Chaplains Unit: 212-473-2363
- POPPA (independent from the NYPD): 888-267-7267
- NYC WELL: Text, call, & chat www.nyc.gov/nycwell
- Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line: Law enforcement officers can text BLUE to 741741 (non-law enforcement can text TALK to 741741)
- Call 911 for emergencies