As the numbers of mass shootings inches up, so do the number of first responders’ who commit suicide. So far, among the first responders to the October 1, 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, no law enforcement suicides have been reported. Often they carry the stress and grief for years and then one day, well.
In 2017, there were 346 mass shootings in America, including the Las Vegas massacre — one of the deadliest in America’s history — according to Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks the country’s gun-related deaths.
The organization, defines mass shootings as those where four or more persons are slain or injured, has identified 159 so far this year, through July 3.
The “first responders” those providing emergency care have been hit hard not just by recent large-scale disasters but by the accrual of stress and trauma over many years, research shows. Numerous studies have spotted elevated cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among medical and law enforcement professions. A 2016 survey by the International Association of Fire Fighters found that firefighters and paramedics are showing levels of PTSD akin to that of combat veterans.
Many of the individuals who respond to tragedies have become heroes and victims at once. Some say the scale, sadness and sometimes gruesomeness of their experiences haunt them, leading to tearfulness and depression, job burnout, substance abuse, relationship problems, even suicide.
The problem can be exacerbated following mass shootings such as the one which occurred in Las Vegas.
Any time a law enforcement officer’s life is lost is cause for grief. Most cops will say there are few events sadder than a fellow officer’s funeral. Must is made in the news of ‘line of duty’ deaths, but there are other dangers as well. Primarily the problem of police officer suicides.
Studies by the Badge of Life group says the rate of police suicides is between 125 and 150 each year. That works out to roughly 17 suicides per 100,000 officers, a rate nearly triple the number of cops killed by criminals.
The rate within the general population is 11 suicides per 100,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control. Law enforcement officers are 1.5 times more prone to commit suicide than the general population.
Dell Hackett, a three-decade law enforcement veteran has a resume as wide as the Hoover Dam. Most recently, Hackett was assigned to management in charge of The Special Operations Unit following eight years of SWAT Experience.
A certified emergency vehicle operations instructor and a senior firearms instructor, Hackett is a graduate of the FBI Academy in Quantico.
Hackett has been deeply involved in forming his departments’ critical incident team and peer support unit. A noted, international speaker on topics linked to law enforcement stress and police suicide, Hackett has been called on repeatedly to deliver presentations on suicide prevention for police while he has published numerous articles on SWAT topics and operations as well as law enforcement peer support.
Hackett’s focus continues to be law enforcement peer support and law enforcement suicide prevention. While involved in establishing training to officers in PTSD recognition, he has handled a number of cases that come through the group’s website.
Becoming a peer support specialist is as easy as taking a class and then working hard to make a name for yourself. Certain qualities make a peer support specialist successful.
It is imperative for a peer support specialist to be determined in their attempts to help others. They should be able to make their peer feel like an equal despite being the one seeking help.
As it is the specialist’s job to help their peers through difficult times, a peer support specialist should be optimistic and not contribute to the grief. A peer support specialist can’t help someone if they believe they won’t succeed.
Create Positive Relationships
The ability to create and maintain positive relationships is as important as the willpower to be flexible and put peers’ needs before the specialist’s own.
A peer support specialist must have the ability to focus on self while sustaining the ability to flip between social life and professional life like a switch.
Peer support specialists are training to work inside military communities, first responder agencies, law enforcement and corporate communities. Anyone interested in exploring the path to achieving peer specialist support status should contact Dell Hackett through the Police Services Division of the Lane County Sheriff’s Office in Eugene, Oregon today.
Police Suicide: Tactics for Prevention
Hackett is the editor behind Police Suicide: Tactics for Prevention which offers strategies and tactics to help prevent suicides.
In the volume’s introduction, he writes: “ It is the hope, therefore, that the information in this book will prevent future suicides and even reverse the thinking that leads to such life-ending decisions. It is a “must read” for law enforcement officers, probation and parole officers, supervisors, mental health professionals, educators, criminal justice students and professors. It is complete and well researched; a cooperative effort, not a competitive one; a journey of discovery and hope.”
To contact Lieutenant Hackett, call him at 541-682-4458 or email him at DHACK84469@aol.com