FBI observes National Law Enforcement Suicide Awareness Day in Clarksburg

Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 5:57 PM EDT
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CLARKSBURG, W.Va (WDTV) - September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Tuesday focuses on the mental health of our nations law enforcement. September 26 is National Law Enforcement Suicide Awareness Day.

Studies show that the people who are sworn to protect and serve our communities are also at a higher risk for suicide. That’s why FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) in Clarksburg is hosting speakers and resources to raise awareness.

Law Enforcement Section Chief Scott Schubert says the FBI began collecting this data last year.

“We’re trying to get as much information on death by suicide, attempted suicides, across the country so we can better understand why it’s happening, how it’s happening, and what we can do to help make a change and prevent that from happening,” said Schubert.

This database uses information submitted by first responder agencies across the country.

In recent years organizations like First H.E.L.P. have been campaigning to turn the stigma on first responders’ mental health.

It wasn’t until legislation signed in 2022 that families could even receive benefits from line-of-duty deaths related to suicide.

First H.E.L.P.’s CFO Karen Solomon says the conversation has come a long way with the I Will Listen Campaign.

“In addition to that legislation, lots of organizations have started to support the families after suicide and they’ve also come up with wellness programs and awards for departments around the country who implement mental wellness programs in their departments and that’s something that’s never happened before,” said Soloman.

Solomon says a lot of progress has been made thanks to the help of departments like NYPD taking proactive steps.

NYPD Health and Wellness Section’s Commanding Officer Mark Wachter says they began a peer support group in 2019 and are helping officers find mental health resources.

Wachter says these programs help keep officers and civilians safe.

“If we have a well officer you know that turns into better public interactions and that’s really what it’s about we want to bridge the gap between police and the public and we want everybody to be well,” said Wachter.

Having someone to talk to, or a friend to hold like these therapy dogs and horses, can help open a conversation that can save a life.

“It’s tough, I mean they’re friends, they’re colleagues, and you don’t always see the warning signs or understand the warning signs -- you know?” said Schubert. “That’s why it’s so important to me that we get as much information. If we can help save one life then everything we do is worth it.”