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Posted on Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Suicides of local public safety officers highlight pressures of job

By Sven Gustafson

Thumbnail image for GREG O'DELL AW.JPG

Greg O'Dell

The recent suicide deaths of three public safety officers from Southeast Michigan, including two from Washtenaw County, highlight the chronic stress that comes with the profession, The Detroit News reported in a story Sunday. Their stories also underscore the difficulty in persuading public safety officers to seek help.

The suicides all occurred in the past two months, drawing attention to the unique pressures faced by public safety professionals:

Statistics suggest that police officers suffer higher rates of deaths by suicide than firefighters and military personnel. Rates for white, working-age men — a demographic that typifies public safety — had Michigan’s highest per-capita suicide rate of 20.4 in 2009, the last year for which data are available.

Experts say people face a stigma in admitting they’re suicidal to others. And many police and fire agencies have a culture where opening up about personal problems is discouraged.

Read The Detroit News article.

Resources exist in Washtenaw County for people who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide. Anyone in that circumstance is urged to get immediate help. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline (Military veterans press #1 ). 734-662-2222 Ozone House is a 24 hour hotline for youth. 734-996-4747 is a 24-hour hotline at U of M Psychiatric Emergency Services.



Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

The problem of suicide and occupational stress : the figures mentioned in this story pale when we look at the reported incidence of suicide among farmers and peasants of India. I would expect that the people trained in law enforcement must be a little more stress-resistant as compared to the general public. It would be useful to review the training policy and impart training to promote stress-tolerance, and stress-resistance. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 10:50 a.m.

Yeah... that's relevant.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

It's so sad that depression still has such a stigma attached that anyone, regardless of profession, is unwilling to seek help.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 3 p.m.

we don't know why these men committed suicide, we are not privy to there last conversations or thoughts. LEAVE THESE MEN ALONE with your grandiose justifications of journalistic pursuits.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

The apparent suicide of Greg O'dell is stll being investigated. His job was less police officer than administrator. What I would like to know is why he hated the job at UM so much. It had been his dream job until he actually got into the position.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

Public saftey officials are way down the list on those that commit sucide. Why do we constantly read about all these &quot;humble public servants&quot; that have so much stress that they kill themselves. Why, because we give this profession so much more public attention than almost any other profession besides public school teachers. Does anyone hear or care about the drug sales rep ( or any sales rep for that matter) who commited sucide because they were not meeting their sales quota for two years and were under daily scrutiny and being threatened with termination ? At least a police officer has a union to come to their rescue if they are not meeting their daily requirements ! Public safety officials rank 10th overall in suicide by profession. MD's, foodservice workers, machine operators, social scientists, salespeople and lawyers all kill themselves at higher rates than do public safety officials. And none of these professions give the workers 20-30 years and out with nice bennies or healthcare till you die. Good Day


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 2:38 a.m.

Pension and benefit envy at it's finest.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Maybe because it has something to do with all the tremendous support we encounter day after day from people like you.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

Your armchair psychology is not helpful, please leave it to the experts. You seem to imply that law enforcement suffers more stress than usual and that somehow contributes to higher suicide rates. The fact is that the suicide rate among law enforcement is about 17 per 100k while the rate for white males is almost 18 per 100k. It is quite possible that rates among law enforcement are actually lower than among the demographic group which most accurately represents law enforcement. Maybe being a middle-aged white male is the risk factor. Suicide is a serious issue for the families and friends of those who commit suicide. Please stop and think before you publish such pop drivel.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 9:55 p.m.

I couldn't agree more Alan. This article is a disservice to the relativity of the cause and effect of suicide. It's important to see actual results before we find resolve of the situation. I personally see a higher stress factor, but none that which could not be resolved in general fashion of counseling. I do see that in each case there are other factors involved, in which would put these suicides in a different demographic than fire and police rates.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 1:24 a.m.

Sorry, I disagree. One has to first conduct the properly controlled research and then find the true effect. The assumption of the article, without supporting evidence, is that the stress of the job leads to a higher suicide rate. But the incidence of suicide among white males in the general population is greater than the rate among law enforcement. Maybe the type of person who is drawn to law enforcement is already at a higher risk and the job has nothing to do with it. Without properly controlled study it is pop drivel. What really bothers me is that depression and suicide are real problems among the general population, more so among some demographic groups than among law enforcement. The conclusion that it is a problem particular to law enforcement, aside from being false, does a great disservice to those of us who have had to deal with depression and suicide of loved ones.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 12:34 a.m.

It may not be entirely pop drivel. This article shows how the statistics can be viewed different ways, showing that the suicide rate is about the same as the general population for some agencies while others have rates significantly higher: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> In any case, it's not simply armchair psychology, but a real problem no matter the statistics.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

I can see how they came up with this cause of suicide, but not all are doing it. The fact is that they're under more stress then before because of cuts, and having to take up the slack. That could increase the stress factor and deepen the will to stop this train, I want off. There are many more factors to look at also, as child/peer abuse, sexuality, and personality disorders, all stemming from Stress Hormone Toxic Exposure, (SHTE), and this is the main factor of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD). Yes, the high stress of their jobs can definitely put these cortisol (stress hormone) levels way too high to manage by themselves. So if this be the case, all enforcement officers should be analyzed by a Psych MD, at least once a year. There should also be a social worker who over sees the the departments. I can not say from experience, but having to see burnt body's, and such, I would really need someone to tell about how it effects me; especially if your not supposed to feel, tell, or cry, around the others. I say it should be mandated for the employees of the emergency response to receive help regularly.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 8:28 p.m.

I dont think the job had anything to do with Daniel Armitage's suicide. Alot more going on and if you want to blame the job maybe AAFD should be charged domestic voilence.