After extensive research, a study by the Newton-based Ruderman Family Foundation found police officers and firefighters experience PTSD and depression at rates five times higher than the average public.
Researchers found 140 police officers committed suicide last year. By comparison, 129 police officers died in the line of duty.
IT WAS THE UNIFORM THAT KILLED HIM
It’s a statistic Janice McCarthy knows all too well.
Her husband Paul McCarthy quickly rose in the ranks of law enforcement to become a Mass State Police Captain.
But a crash while on duty in 1993 set changes in motion. Paul’s his injuries kept him out of work and the uniform he love for two years. Janice says his focus was on physical recovery, not mental, and he suffered from nightmares as well as a fear of doing things he used to enjoy.
“He would have flashbacks of the bus coming at him. All of these were symptoms of post traumatic stress,” Janice McCarthy told Boston 25 News Anchor Blair Miller.
McCarthy’s return to work triggered the symptoms. Janice says he struggled despite counseling.
“I know that living with him, that he was never able to let it go. It consumed him,” Janice McCarthy said.
Janice went to the employee assistance program, asking for real help for her husband. She says State Police offered to help, but he would have to retire first, something he refused to do.
In 2006 Paul decided to end his life at the age of 41.
“I know the pain he was in and I know there were roadblocks put up to keep him from getting the help he needed and that makes me angry,” Janice McCarthy said.
She's still angry and troubled by the many others in law enforcement who make the same choice.
WE DON’T HEAR ABOUT THE SUICIDES
Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes experienced the loss within his department.
“We hear about the officers killed in the line of duty but we don't hear about the suicides,” Kyes said.
In May of 2016, Officer John Bruttaniti died in a motorcycle crash.
His close friend and fellow motorcycle officer Robert Longo took his own life the day after Bruttaniti’s funeral, although police say it was unrelated.
The Chelsea police department has many programs giving officers more places to turn should they need help.
“It's something that we're trying to change the philosophy as administrators, the philosophy in policing that again. Is just not part of the job. This is something that you have to get out,” said Chief Kyes.
EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE FIXED
Janice McCarthy agrees. She now speaks across the country, sharing her story and urging police departments to change the culture.
“It's so deeply ingrained that they're the fixers and they don't need to be fixed,” McCarthy said. “That's a myth. Everyone needs to be fixed.”
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