It Demands A Second Opinion
Over the last two weeks, 4 police officers committed suicide – every 17 hours an officer commits suicide (Forensic Examiner Magazine) and firefighter suicides are increasing rapidly. One suicide is too many. There is a plan for each life – and it does not include suicide.
Perhaps you are sitting there, anxiety about the job is overwhelming your senses. Depression has you in a hole so deep you can’t see daylight. You marriage is in the toilet. The pain is very real, intense, and you are wanting out. Maybe you made some bad choices and you are facing consequences, either personal or professional. The booze and/or pills do not help numb that throbbing emotional pain anymore. You believe you are a disappointment to your family, to your peers. An embarrassment.
Death seems like the only feasible option. After all, who would care? Everyone would be better off if you were gone and not a problem anymore. After all, many others are taking this way out – about every 17 hours for police (Forensics Examiner Magazine), or at least 2 to 3 times the number of line of duty deaths. Fire service is closing in with a sharp rise in their suicide rates. The truth is, no one really knows the accurate numbers because so many go unreported as suicide by agencies or media. ONE SUICIDE IS TOO MANY!!
Suicide is a very real problem among first responders. Consider these few, starting with the most recent
- NAME NOT RELEASED YET: NYPD Detective Sgt., 10-31-13, suicide behind the precinct
- Christopher Robinson, Baltimore PD, 10-27-13. Suicide after killing a firefighter and ex-girlfriend
- David Midas, Carbon County PA Sheriff’s Dept / Summit Hill PD, 10-25-13. Suicide after taking officer hostage.
- John Conger, Milton PD, Lieutenant / PIO, 10-20-13
- Morris Tabak, former San Francisco PD Assistant Chief, 8-22-13 outside the Sheriff’s office
- Gary Engel, Willow Springs IL PD, 8-21-13
- William Roudebush, Perry–Clear Creek FD Captain, 7-22-13 Suicide after killing a paramedic.
- Jeffrey Mott, Buffalo NY PD, 7-16-13
- David Vo, Arlington TX PD, 6-11-13
- Rafael Prieto, Asst. Special Agent in Charge, Secret Service, President’s Security Detail, 12-2-12
- Chris Dudley, Deputy Director of U.S. Marshal Service, 11-23-12
- Salvadore Battaglia, New Orleans PD, 2-8-12
- Jeffrey Foust, Lawrence County TN Sheriff’s Deputy, December 7, 2011
The thoughts that your family or coworkers will be better off without you – well, you are wrong. If you asked them, they would tell you. Maybe your spouse is leaving. What about your kids? How do you want them remembering you?
For a moment, think Jimmy Stewart and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George Bailey thinks just like you. Everyone would be better off without him. His Angel Clarence shows him different. Hold that thought and close your eyes. In your minds eye, see your spouse getting the news – or worse – finding your body – perhaps your kids find you, and are emotionally scared for life. Picture the funeral. Tremendous emotional pain, feelings of abandonment, and fear grip your family. Friends and coworkers believe they should have known, should have reached out.
For the moment, let me be Clarence the Angel. Regardless of what you think, suicide is the wrong choice. They will be hurt and damaged by your choice. Help is available to walk with you through whatever the situation. EMOTIONAL WOULDS NEED NOT BE FATAL. THEY CAN BE TREATED JUST AS PHYSICAL WOUNDS CAN. CALLING 615-373-8000 IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARD CONFIDENTIAL HELP.
HEAR THE PAIN FROM FAMILIES OF THOSE WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE. IT WILL BE THE SAME FOR YOUR FAMILY.
I want you to hear from two wives of law enforcement officers who committed suicide. Their thoughts are representative of all those who lost a loved one to suicide.
From a Deputy’s Wife (MO):
You thought our lives would be better without you? You have no idea how wrong you are.
If you had taken everything and ran to Costa Rica, life would have been easier. If you had turned to me and said, “Life is too big, I need to quit my job and we need to move,” life would have been easier.
You played video games for two hours with your 16 year old son before you left the house that night. You told him you were “sad.” He is now a senior in high school and every day he kicks himself for not asking you what was wrong. Every day he wants to tell you he loves you and he can’t. Our other son was a promising college student, straight As his first two semesters. Now he’s struggling so much he is considering dropping out. His question is why didn’t you call him to say goodbye. Your mother has fallen into a terrible depression. It is so bad, she does not leave the house. She hurts so much and wishes she would have known how badly you were hurting. She blames herself… and the rest of your family blames me… for not knowing how to help you. Life is filled with nightmares, two jobs to make ends meet. Constant finger pointing and whispers. Your death is surrounded by rumors that are not true that have impacted my friendships and work environment.
Your nieces, nephews, and all of the neighborhood children have asked me why. I have no answers for them. I have no answers for your children and your mother. Confusion, guilt, pain, nightmares, unending debt is all I have from you, and these unnecessary burdens are shared by many that loved you.
…And the only thing I want to help me through this is your voice and your arms. You were my strength, and this will hurt forever.
My 16 year old said he was spending too much time with the women in his life & needed some guy time. I asked who he’d like to hang out with, he said his dad. I suggested friends, neighbors, and uncles. He replied, “No, mom, I want to hang out with someone I MEAN something to.”
From another Deputy’s Wife (TN):
When my husband committed suicide in our home on December 07. 2011 it was a day that will never be forgotten, a nightmare I can never wake up from. The feelings of confusion, hate, anger, total emptiness, weighed heavily upon my heart. Those first few days where days of loss, not the feeling of loosing Jeff, but the feeling of how do I go on without my husband.
You are rushed to make decisions you never thought about having to make. Funerals, caskets, headstones, these are things you don’t want to pick out you don’t want to face, but you have too. Somewhere in your heart there is something telling you to get through this – it is not real he is coming home he is going to walk through the door any minute. It was all a dream you feel like you are not living in the reality of what just happened. So you stumble through the process, you pick out his suit his tie, you ask yourself why they did not say anything about shoes? In my case I was adamant he was going to have shoes and be fully dressed. In my heart I thought how can he go home without his shoes. However the process proceeds. At the funeral you see him lie in the casket you picked, another process where I do not remember much.
People coming and going, blank faces of a ongoing crowd saying repeatedly the same thing. We are sorry, what can we do? In my mind I wanted to scream at them – bring him back just bring him back. Knowing in a silent anguish no one could do this so why are they asking me what I want or need. I need my husband! I need my life, my heart whole again I want it all to be a bad dream. After the Funeral was the hardest. Here I was alone with a mound of dirt at my feet, where my husband would be. Where I would visit, where I would come take care of his grave until I could lie down beside him. So that is what I di, slept on his grave for a few nights having a hard time believing in the reality I was living. I wanted to die I wanted to be with him. I wanted to have my husband.
In this process I forgot about our four children. I could not cope with looking at the sadness on their face. The tears, the responsibilities. I knew I was suppose to do to take care of the children. I only could cope with wanting by my husband. Some how I thought if I showed him I was not leaving his gravesite he would return. That no matter how long I had to wait he would come back because he loved us. So I waited six months I waited in a state of turmoil that cannot be explained with words, only felt by those that have lost someone to suicide. Then the questions – like, why, how could he leave us. It will be two years in December and I live everyday. I exist, with memories and wishes that he was here to guide us and hold our hand through life’s up and downs. Its really hard being mom and dad and I miss him, and so do our children. I miss him everyday but am learning I have to stand tall and strong and do what I can to protect our children and guide them through life. I just hope in some way he is walking with, us guiding me to make the right choices as I live out a life I had not planned due to his suicide. If I had one wish any day of the week, hour, minute, second of the day, it would be for my husband to be here walking life’s path with us. When you lose the one you love to suicide you are forced to live two lives – the one you have to live because you have responsibilities to those around you – and the one you live in the depths of your heart because you where left behind.“ Love you Jeff
THINK AGAIN – YOUR CHOICES DIRECTLY IMPACT YOUR FAMILY. THEY WILL NOT BE BETTER OFF.
You hear through their words, deep seated, heartfelt, intense pain. A life not of their choosing was thrust upon them when their husbands committed suicide. They are not better off. Through both of these suicides, I’ve had the privilege to walk with these ladies. I’ve heard personally their pain and anguish, their heartache, and their concern for the kids.
I have listened to their bewilderment of the why, and their questions of “why did I not see this coming?” That same question plagues the kids. Committing suicide not only takes your life – it takes the life out of your family. The kids struggle to care about school, feel guilt of their own wondering either if it was their fault or if they should have said something. Rumors in the community, and anger from some family members are all very much a part of suicide.
So here is the point. I can get great quotes from clinical therapists, quite valid in their own right. But you have to want help first. You need a reason to care about living. My hope is that these stories from real victims, families of officer’s who committed suicide, will make you think – about those you will leave behind. Are you willing to intentionally inflict a lifetime of emotional pain on your family? They will NOT be better off.
That leaves you to deal with the issues driving you to consider suicide. No matter the issue, there is a solution. No doubt there may be consequences of choices. I will not lie to you. But, help is available to help you make it through. The choice is really yours. I encourage you to choose life. You will be missed. Your death will cause pain.
Getting to the point of suicide is not unfamiliar ground. As a teen I tried twice to end my life. A wicked stepmother, abuse, and alcohol took me to dark places in my mind. Nights laying in bed hearing the arguments, and the beatings. It took its toll. But I survived, and by God’s grace, learned the reality of a couple of scriptures I have embraced for 50 years.
PERHAPS YOU WILL FIND HOPE, ENCOURAGEMENT AND INSPIRATION FROM A COUPLE OF BIBLE PASSAGES.
13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (The Message)
11 For I know the plans that I [a]have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)
Through the years, I have had success and failure. Made my share of mistakes. Lived through deep heartache – but God was there. I’ve also had joy, peace, and come to learn that those good and bad times are part of God’s process to prepare us for what we will become. Experiences not learned through books or classes, but through tears and prayers.
TIME FOR ACTION – YOU HAVE SAVED THE LIVES OF OTHERS – SAVE ONE MORE – YOUR LIFE AND IN SO DOING, THAT OF YOUR FAMILY.
If you are there, contemplating suicide and hurting, get a second opinion. You would indeed be missed, and your loss will cause pain. Call us, let’s talk. There is a plan for YOUR life, and it does not include suicide.
We are completely confidential. 615-373-8000, 24/7/365 coast2coast. Press 1 for a crisis counselor, or press 2 for a chaplain. We will walk with you and help find the resources you need confidentially.
Maybe you know someone struggling. Under a great deal of stress, on the job, at home, financially. Be proactive. Tell them to call – now. We are completely confidential.
About the author – Robert Michaels is the founder and CEO/National Chaplain of Serve & Protect and Tennessee FOP State Chaplain.
He is a veteran of law enforcement, serving both as an MP with the 229th Military Police Battalion for 6 years, and with the Norfolk Police Department for 5 years, both on patrol and as a detective. Rob earned a B.S. in Biblical Education from Columbia International University, a M.A. from Wheaton College in Communications, and is an ordained minister.
Serve & Protect is a confidential resouce dedicated to serving Law Enforcement, FireRescueEMS, Dispatch, and Corrections BODY / MIND / SOUL through our 24/7 Coast2Coast Crisis Line, Chaplain Alliance, and Trauma Therapist Alliance. He hosts the Guns’n’Hoses Bible Fellowship, and edits the Serve & Protect blog and the newsfeed on FACEBOOK. Serve & Protect is designated as a VIPS (Volunteers In Police Service) PROGRAM of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Rob serves as the State Chaplain for Tennessee Fraternal Order of Police, and is a Chaplain and Sergeant at Arms for FOP Morris Heithcock Lodge 41 in Williamson County TN, where he is an active member. He is a member of the International Conference of Police Chaplains, Federation of Fire Chaplains, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, National Center for Crisis Management, and Luis Palau Association Next Generation Alliance.
Rob can be reached at email@example.com, or 615-224-2424. He is available to speak for interviews, at events, churches, men’s groups, criminal justice classes, chapels, and groups. To schedule a speaking event, please contact Jacqueline Gibb, 813-230-6851, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Serve & Protect Events include Honoring Homeland Heroes events in partnership with local churches and radio; Criminal Justice classes presenting the need for and role of Chaplains; and services based on Rob’s testimony, Recalculated Route, presenting how God navigates us through life and career paths to prepare for His call on our life.
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