#JamesDonaldson On #MentalHealth – #Biden Silent On Increase In #Police #Suicides While Advocates Urge More Action, Less Anti-Cop Rhetoric

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By Jeff Mordock – The Washington Times

#Suicide has quietly become an epidemic among the nation’s #police, ranking as the No. 1 cause of #officer deaths this year. Frustrated #police advocates and #mentalhealthexperts warn that #PresidentBiden has not only ignored the crisis but also exacerbated it with anti-#police rhetoric.

Once a loyal ally to #lawenforcement during his more than 30 years in the Senate, Mr. Biden has tread a fine line when it comes to policing. He has pushed back against the left’s defund-the-#police movement but has made few public comments supporting the #police, fearful of crossing the Democratic Party’s progressive base and #Black voters.

“The administration is not addressing #police #suicides, but in many ways, they are contributing to the #stress, uncertainty and #mentalhealthissues that a lot of #American law enforcement #officers feel,” said Betsy Brantner Smith, a spokeswoman for the #NationalPoliceAssociation.

As president, Mr. Biden has signed legislation to reduce and prevent #suicide among frontline #healthcareworkers, launched a #military and #veteran #suicideprevention strategy, and advocated #mentalhealthservices for #transgender #teens.

But administration #officials have remained largely mum on #lawenforcement #suicides outside of mourning the deaths of the four #officers who died by #suicide after responding to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

At a May event urging cities to invest more funds in local #police, Mr. Biden discussed the need for #mentalhealthservices for offenders reentering society, but not #officers.

A Justice Department spokesperson disputed that the administration has been silent on #lawenforcement #suicides, saying Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the issue at the International Association of Chiefs of #Police symposium in March.

During his remarks, Mr. Garland noted that the Justice Department’s COPS Office this year will issue $7 million in grants to prevent #suicide and expand #mentalhealthservices for #lawenforcement. However, most of the money had been allocated under the Law Enforcement #MentalHealth and Wellness Act, a 2018 measure signed into law by then-President Trump.

The spokesperson said the department has not increased the level of funding for fiscal 2023, but it has expanded the training and technical assistance it provides to law enforcement for #mentalwellness. This year the department added a consolidated list of #officer safety and wellness resources to its website.

Mr. Garland also touted a $2 million grant to convene a national consortium on preventing #lawenforcement #suicides. Those funds were approved by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance in 2019.

“If you acknowledge there is a problem, you have to do something, so I think there is a hesitation to acknowledge there is a problem in this culture of bashing #police,” said Cherylynn Lee, a #police #psychologist. “How can you be outspoken about officers being malicious and have a parallel narrative about how they stand up for good and lose a lot on their mission to protect us?”

This year, 64 #lawenforcement #officers in the #UnitedStates have died by #suicide — an average of more than 10 per month — according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit that keeps such statistics.

Experts say the number is likely higher. Blue H.E.L.P.’s data is based on reports from local #policedepartments. Those departments are hesitant to provide accurate numbers because of the #stigma attached to #suicide and it isn’t considered a line-of-duty death so families of #officers who took their own lives can’t get benefits.

The 64 reported #suicides account for 32% of the 197 #officer deaths this year, higher than any category of line-of-duty deaths.

This year 34 officers have been killed by gunfire, most of them while making an arrest, 58 #officers died of #COVID-19, and another 30 died in traffic incidents.

In 2021, #suicide accounted for about 20% of all known #policeofficer deaths.

The rise in officer #suicides comes as the national #suicide rate declined by 3% in 2021, according to the most recent data from the #CentersforDiseaseControlandPrevention.

#Mentalhealthadvocates say the #suicide surge stems from the shame and #stigma associated with seeking help in a profession that prides itself on #mental and physical toughness, coupled with the growing #stress of being a cop amid the anti-police climate in #America.

“I’ve been involved in #lawenforcement since 1976 and this is the worst I’ve seen it,” Ms. Brantner Smith said.

There is plenty the Biden administration can do to curb law enforcement #suicides, according to experts.

The first thing, they said, would be to knock off the comments critical of #lawenforcement.

#James Donaldson notes:
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

Order your copy of James Donaldson’s latest book,
From The Verge of Suicide to a Life of Purpose and Joy


In a statement meant to honor #officers during #Police Week last year, Mr. Biden bashed #officers for creating “a deep sense of distrust” between law enforcement and #communitiesofcolor.

“This year, we also recognize that in many of our communities, especially #Black and brown communities, there is a deep sense of distrust towards law enforcement; a distrust that has been exacerbated by the recent deaths of several #Black and brown people at the hands of law enforcement,” said the statement that was meant to recognize #officers who had fallen in the line of duty. 

Mr. Biden vowed last year that two U.S. Border Patrol agents falsely accused of “whipping” Haitian migrants at the border “will pay” for their actions, but they were later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

“The biggest thing the Biden administration could do is apologize to the profession for some of the outrageous statements Joe Biden has made since the election,” Ms. Brantner Smith said. “#American law enforcement feels that not only does the administration not have our back, but we are actively in the crosshairs and that wears on the #mentalhealth of the #men and #women on the streets trying to do their job.”

Mr. Biden also could host a day honoring #lawenforcement, or an event highlighting the need for officer #mentalhealthservices. The #WhiteHouse previously announced several #mentalhealth initiatives with much fanfare, including a plan to reduce #military #veteran #suicides.

Experts also called for an increase in funding for #mentalhealthservices for law enforcement, calling for boosting Justice Department grants available to local departments for counseling and other treatment services.

#Police advocates said the grants provided under the 2018 legislation are woefully insufficient and need to be supplemented with funds from the federal government. The grants available under the COPS program and Byrne program are helpful, they said, but cash-strapped departments are spending the funds on critical needs such as replacing damaged vehicles and upgrading holding cells, leaving only a few dollars left for #mentalhealthservices. 

Currently, there is no legislation pending in Congress that would increase federal funding for #lawenforcement #mentalhealthservices. While some have blamed the Biden administration, critics note that Republicans have not introduced legislation to improve #police access to #mentalhealthservices.

“The resources that exist are helpful but they are not enough,” said Ms. Lee, the #police #psychologist. “It is a political danger zone to be pro-#police.”

She called for legislation that would mandate #policeofficers have an annual session with a #therapist and require officers involved in critical incidents to attend a debrief with officials and #counselors. Congress can implement such rules only for federal officers, but local departments usually follow suit.

Currently, only one bill in Congress addresses the higher #suicide rates for #firstresponders. The Public Safety Officer Support Act would enable families of #officers who died by #suicide to be eligible for benefits.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Democrat, and John Cornyn, Texas Republican, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will now move to the full floor for the vote.

An aide to Mr. Cornyn said the president could have done more to help the bill advance more swiftly.

“After their disastrous defund-the-#police agenda backfired, the Biden administration continues to find new ways to demonize and neglect our brave #lawenforcement,” the aide said.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

Photo by Ludmila Aleksandra on Pexels.com

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