Suicide Prevention in U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies

A National Survey of Current Practices

Published in: Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology [Epub April 2018]. doi:10.1007/s11896-018-9269-x

Posted on RAND.org on May 22, 2018

by Rajeev Ramchand, Jessica Saunders, Karen Chan Osilla, Patricia A. Ebener, Virginia Kotzias, Elizabeth Thornton, Lucy Strang, Meagan Cahill

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Increasing attention is being paid to suicide among law enforcement officers, and how the agencies that employ these officers could prevent such deaths. This study presents the results of a national survey of U.S. law enforcement agencies' strategies for preventing officer suicide. We invited 177 agencies from across the United States to be interviewed, and 110 agreed to participate in qualitative interviews. Agencies were grouped into one of four categories based on the services they offered. Agencies offered minimal (a municipal employee assistance program), basic (mental health, critical incident response procedures, and training), proactive (in-house mental health care, embedded chaplains, substance misuse programs, peer support, screening, or health and wellness programs), and integrated services (integration of services into day-to-day operations). The results indicate that many U.S. law enforcement agencies are engaged in efforts to promote officer wellness and prevent suicide. Officers' perceptions of confidentiality may inhibit the use of in-house or contracted mental health services, while a weak or inconclusive evidence-base raises questions about common approaches like peer support or critical incident stress debriefing

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