'He was just broken': A widow's plea for mental health support

BOSTON — The pictures, the smiles, the memories remind Cheryl Ames of when her family had it all.

"Life was good, we were a regular family," she said.

She had a family that included two children -- ages 9 and 14 at the time -- when their father was a proud police officer in West Bridgewater.

"He was an amazing guy. Handsome, strong, dedicated to his family. Dedicated to his job," Ames said.

She remembers in 2013 when Gregory, her husband, responded to a call that ended with a man taking his own life.

"He always felt badly because the man didn't survive and this is where the beginning of the story changes and he really started to struggle," she said. "He suffered from post-traumatic stress. No one offered him help and he continued to soldier on as if nothing ever happened."

The 43-year-old pushed through and then several months later was involved in an accident at work. He had head injuries and Cheryl says Gregory couldn't escape the pain.

"He couldn't eat, he was a different person," she said. "He was just broken."

In June of that year, Gregory Ames ended his life.

"It was the worst day of my life," Cheryl recalled. "I had to tell [my kids] their father was gone. How do you tell an 8-year-old and 14-year-old? And go to their school and take them out of their school and tell them this?"

Cheryl is now among those who've lost officers to suicide, which happens more than line-of-duty deaths.

For the first time, it will be front and center in Washington D.C. and part of the discussion during National Police Week.

"I want people to understand that there is help available, but I think that people need to talk about it more," Cheryl said. "I think it's a subject that is so difficult and so hard and so devastating that people don't talk about it enough."

You can hear more about Cheryl's story in our podcast First on Scene.

MORE: Burden of the Badge: The alarming rate of suicide among first responders