NYPD task force to address mental health crisis among New York’s finest after 7th officer suicide

NEW YORK — An NYPD officer killed himself Saturday and become the seventh suicide with the department this year; it's part of what the NYPD commissioner has called a "mental-health crisis."

Four NYPD officers died because of suicide in all of 2018. The rise in suicides is a trend we are seeing across the country. Members of law enforcement are trained to help and protect others while their own struggles are masked and not discussed openly, until it is too late, experts said.

”We’re not victims, but that is not always true. We’re human beings. We get depressed and so I think that’s the challenge we have,” said NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Ben Tucker.

That challenge is something is dealing with head on. He was appointed by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill almost one month ago to lead a task force to look into the health and mental wellness of the force. The issue is more important than ever after the NYPD sadly lost a seventh member to suicide over the weekend.

Saturday, 30-year-old Sergeant Terrance McAvoy was found inside of his Staten Island home. He's believed to have killed himself with his department-issued handgun. Commissioner O’Neill called his death a tragedy upon tragedy.

“These are extremely difficult jobs and you couple that with whatever personal issues people have and it’s not a good recipe. People shouldn’t feel they can’t come forward,” said O’Neill.

Tucker said it is now the department’s priority to bring the number of suicides down, but first they are working to tackle the stigma surrounding getting help for mental health.

Hundreds of members of the senior executive staff are scheduled to meet in a conference in the next week or so and they will receive training and be educated to recognize important signs of mental distress within their own command posts. Tucker’s task force even sent a delegation out to Los Angeles, California. There, the police department found success in bringing in clinicians and psychologists to make rounds at all of their precincts. That model is expected to be replicated here with the help of ThriveNYC, the city's mental health initiative.

There is even an app in development. The goal to make getting help easily accessible, anonymous and completely confidential.

The NYPD offers multiple resources for the emotional and physical toll the job takes on those in the force.

On their website, the NYPD lists numbers for their Employee Assistance Unit, Chaplain’s Unit, peer assistance program, and other resources.

The NYPD also recommends POPPA — Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance. It’s a “volunteer police support network committed exclusively to providing a confidential, safe and supportive environment for police officers and retirees.” Their helpline is 1-888-COPS-COP (1-888-267-7267).

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). It’s a free, 24/7 service that offers support, information, and local resources. You can also click here for additional hotlines within the tri-state area and the nation.

Depression and suicidal thoughts are often exhibited in many ways. Warning signs for suicide can include, but are not limited to, talking about wanting to die; conveying feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or being a burden; and displaying extreme moods.

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention advises that you do not leave the person alone, call a prevention hotline, and take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

For more information on suicide prevention, including additional resources and warning signs, you can visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website.

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