Category Archives: suicide

Doc’s thoughts on suicide.

DISCLAIMER: If you are contemplating suicide, please call the Suicide Help line at 1-800-273-8255.

I am going to discuss a subject that no one likes to talk about. And relate it to a group that most people prefer to shun or ignore. And let you in on a dark secret I’ve held in my heart and a fight I’ve waged from before. This may be a hard read (and I am sure it will be a hard WRITE), but sometimes we have to speak up and “strike while the iron is hot” so to speak.

By this point, I am sure that you have heard about the death of Robin Williams. How he died too young (63), the impact he had made, or about the times that something he did deeply impacted someone’s life. One that got me moving early on was a line from Dead Poet’s Society “Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Do not be resigned to that. Break out! “

You’re going to hear a lot of commentators talk about depression, mental illness and how they relate to suicide and how they are different. But I’m not going to get to in depth in those areas. You may hear theological debates on “if it’s forgivable” or something like that. I’m not going there either. Determining who gets into Heaven is above my pay grade. What I do want to point out is the “peace” (or lack thereof) that comes with suicide.

I want to say that there is no “peace” in suicide. If you do not believe that, ask the survivors – the family and friends of those who took their own life. They have so many questions, and most they will never have an answer for. There is guilt (“Maybe I could have stopped it”, “If they had just told me”). In addition to the other normal emotions during a time of loss, there is a regret that they did not get to say their goodbyes.

And I’m sure that you have guessed the “group that most people prefer to shun or ignore” is the Law Enforcement community. According to statistics, an officer is 2-5 times more likely to be killed by themselves than they are by a suspect. They also tell us that over 30% of officers have thought about suicide at some point in their career, and that an officer is twice as likely to commit suicide on the night shift than any other shift.
We in the Miami Valley are not immune from these trends, having had one locally in the last few months. So how do we turn the tide?

1. Never assume that anyone is immune to it. Who thought Robin Williams would have taken his own life?
2. Know the signs of distress. If someone is openly talking about it, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.
3. If you (or someone you know) needs help, SEEK IT!

Let’s not allow this tragedy to be in vain. We watch out for each other on duty all the time. Watch out for this too.

Some of you may be thinking about it now. Life isn’t “worth it” anymore. No one cares about you. Your spouse is not speaking to you. You are “at the end of your rope”. One of my instructors in Bible School told this story.
Several years ago, my brother was allowed to witness an open-heart surgery. During the procedure, the patient’s heart had been stopped from beating. When it came time to restart it, despite repeated attempts, the medical staff was unable to cause the heart to beat again. Finally, although the patient was obviously unconscious, the surgeon leaned over and spoke into the patient’s ear, “We need your help. We cannot get your heart restarted. Tell your heart to start beating.” Incredibly, in that instant, the patient’s heart began to beat again!

Here is the dark secret I promised. At one point in my own life I have experienced some what I would call “mild depression”, and even thought about “ending it all”. (Do not be alarmed, it hasn’t been recently). And up until now I never really shared that with anyone. I was afraid of what people would think or what would happen I guess. But I’m a stronger person today thanks in part to those experiences, which is one of the reasons that the subject is still a soft spot in my heart.

So if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, talk to someone. You CAN be happy again. You CAN live life to the fullest. You can touch others with your story. You can tell your heart to “beat again”. So live! Reach out!
If I can help you in any way, contact me!

DISCLAIMER: If you are currently contemplating suicide, please call the Suicide Help line at 1-800-273-8255.

How to have a care-free life.

I was recently in a conversation where the subject of suicide came up. “Suicide is for the weak.” And I have a confession to make, I didn’t stand up and say that’s not true.

If you’ve been around me long enough, suicide in Law Enforcement and Fire/EMS, you’ll know that I talk about this from time to time. In some cases, It’s like fighting an uphill battle. Cops and firefighters put on hard exteriors. You are not easy trusting in most cases. And a lot of times, you push their feelings out of sight so others can’t see them. The problem is, that feelings are part of the human experience and need to be dealt with.

I’ll be further honest. You see a lot of things as “routine” that I honestly pray that I never see. I’ve been on 16 different ride-alongs. And I’ve been fortunate not to see anything so horrible I dream about it at night. Mangled car crashes…brutal deaths of children…blood-soaked rooms from murder/suicides. Not only do they have to deal with that, they have to tell the person’s family. (Death notifications are something no one wants to do, but I may cover some things I’ve found while preparing myself for this. More on that in the future).

Who do you talk to? Sometimes meeting with “the guys” and talking it out may serve to get it out of your system. But what if it doesn’t? What if you are still having nightmares 6 months after a “critical incident”? If so , your trauma may run deeper into PTSD. Now I know some of you may be thinking “PTSD? That’s a load of crap.” Actually, it’s not. It can be diagnosed and TREATED. If you want to hear about it from a cop, read this article.

Now, I’m not naive. Not all stress leads to PTSD. Not all people with PTSD commit suicide. And not all people who commit suicide do so because of trauma.

My grandfather “papaw” as I called him, almost got me hurt once. Seems that I had a great uncle who did not like loud noises. So he puts me up to walking behind him (you know whats coming right?) and yelling Boo! Before I could finish getting that out, he had wheeled around and covered about 10 feet in seconds…coming towards me. I was about 6 and that scared me silly. He felt bad for it later, and I had no idea what happened. WWII soldiers called it “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”. Today, it’s called PTSD. My uncle had nightmare for years, and still to this day. I visited him in the nursing home and he was recalling (or re-living) this while he was sleeping. If we knew as much about PTSD as we do now, maybe we could have made his life better. Maybe his dreams wouldn’t be filled with horror.

So what does that have to do with you. On a scale of one to ten, your stress may be a 3. Count yourself fortunate. Find ways to combat stress now. And have people in your life that you trust and can see if you are fighting a battle bigger than you. And give them permission to say the hard things to you, things you may not want to hear. And when trauma comes, know where to turn for help.

If your stress is more like an eight, seek professional help. Seriously. If you want to keep it “unofficial”, there are ways to do that. If your department has a chaplain, talk to them. If not, call someone in your area who can help.

And if you have thoughts of suicide, get help now. Pick up the phone. Call someone. make an appointment. Contact me and I’ll do whatever I can. You can be happy.

There are some good sites with information about suicide, the facts and just how many people are tempted. Most of these are geared toward my First Responder friends, but there are lots of good tips anyone can glean from them.

Jeff Shannon has some great articles about stress and how to beat it at http://policementalhealth.blogspot.com/.

Dr. John Violanti (Former State Trooper) contributes articles on Police Suicide Prevention.

The Badge of Life has stats and prevention tips.

Peggy Sweeney has some help for firefighters.

What can’t you stand?

A few days ago I went to our church’s Wednesday night Leader session titled, “The Leadership State of Mind”. Having been in the church for over 10 years, I’ve heard a lot on leadership. A lot of great stuff. But this one was particularly life impacting.

“When leaders understand the stakes everybody wins.”
“Leaders intercept entropy – the lack of order and predictability, the gradual decline into disorder.”
“Out of the furnace of frustration, we forge leadership metal.”

He talked about examples of leaders: men like Moses, Billy Graham and Popeye. Some of us probably grew up watching Popeye. Olive Oyl was the special girl in his life. Popeye’s demeanor was usually calm and collected. But if something happened that would potentially harm her, he exploded. He would shout, “That’s all I can stand, and I can’t stands no more!”
The he asked the question: “What is it that you can’t stand?”.

Now for those of you who don’t know me, let me say this before I continue. I think about cops a lot. When I see one, I say hi and usually introduce myself. I spend a Friday night per month riding along with one of my local departments. And when one gives the ultimate sacrifice, I post my condolences, and I always contact their department. And at a police officer funeral, I learned some important lessons about life.

So tonight was no different. Police Week 2010. My next ride along in Miamisburg. Who’s next : Riverside or Dayton? Officer suicide. Lots of things were going through my mind when he asked the questions:”What is it that you can’t stand?” “What is it that wrecks you?” At that point something happened inside me. Tears came to my eyes. My heart ached at the thought.

What is it that I can’t stand? What “wrecks” me?
I can’t stand the thought of a cop sitting lonely in their cruiser on Christmas morning.
It “wrecks me” that a cop somewhere wondering if their life matters.
I can’t stand the thought that over 30% of officers have thought about suicide.
It “wrecks me” that officers are killing themselves at a rate more than twice as high as the general public.

Before you say “Well Mike, that could be true of Army vets, or___________________”. You may be right. But I’m not sent to them. I am sent to Police Officers. I try to encourage them whenever I can. I tell them that there are good people. What I really want them to know is that someone cares. I care.

It’s my goal that no officer in Ohio or Kentucky will ever have to wonder if they are appreciated. That no officer on a beat on Christmas morning will wonder if anyone cares if they are out there. That no officer who has a 2 year marriage and a newborn who gets to spend a couple of hours on a holiday with his young family will go to work and wonder why.

6 PM moment of sincence for today, 12/8/09

Tonight at 6 PM, there is a moment of silence for the Lakewood four. This was passed to me by the KY FOP site.

I have descided to expand that out a little bit. For all you who are interrested in joining me (read that as “PLEASE JOIN ME”) at 6, I will not only be praying for Lakewood, and Pellham Alabama (Officer Philip Davis the other officer burried today), but for my state, city and county.

Ohio State Patrol (OSP)
Kentucky State Police (KSP)
Montgomery County (OH) Sherriff’s Office
Huber Heights Police Division (Where I live – substitute your local police dept.)
Miami Township Police Department (Since I work in Miami TWP)

I’ll be praying for their safety and protection from evil.
Prayer for wisdom to be able to see danger that they may have not seen otherwise. Praying that “no weapon formed against them will prosper” according to Isaiah 54:17. Prayer for wisdom and patience in diffusing high-risk situations.
Prayer for healing/protection from PTSD (PTSD is a lead contributor to officer “Line of Duty Suicides“)

And as I wrote this, another officer was killed in North Carolina. Deputy Sheriff Charlie Brown of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina was killed by a suspect who was walking down the street shooting a gun.

When will the violence against our officers stop?

Just some things I’m thinking about.

Periodically I post a thought or two that I have. Tonight I gravitate to a thought I’ve been kicking around. I got a link about police suicide prevention. A suicide is seven times more likely than a Line of Duty death. I encourage any officer reading this note to watch the video. Know the difference between stress and trauma. And remember, it’s never bad to ask for help. This video was sponsored by Badge of Life.

Rascal Flatts video Why.