General Commentary ARTICLE
Commentary: Police and Suicide Prevention
- 1James J. Peters Veterans’ Administration Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA
- 2Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA
A commentary on
Police and Suicide Prevention
by Marzano L, Smith M, Long M, Kisby C, Hawton K. Crisis (2016). doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000381
I read with interest an important article, “Police and suicide prevention” that was recently published in Crisis (1). The authors developed and evaluated training in suicide awareness and prevention for frontline police officers. Areas covered in the training module included the role of police officers in suicide prevention, the main characteristics of individuals who engage in suicidal and self-harm acts, how to approach and question individuals suspected to be at risk of suicide, how to ascertain the level of risk of individuals suspected to be suicidal or expressing suicidal ideation, how to refer individuals at risk of suicide to the services most appropriate for their specific needs and level of risk, and other issues. All officers who participated in the training program were asked to complete a questionnaire before, immediately after, and 6 months after undertaking training, to measure changes in knowledge, confidence, and attitudes, regarding suicide prevention. The authors concluded that training in suicide prevention appears to have been well received and to have had a beneficial impact on officers’ attitudes, confidence, and knowledge. The results of this study show that police may play a role in suicide prevention. The authors also astutely noted that providing training with regard to suicidality may help the officers themselves in terms of increasing awareness and recognition of mental health issues that might affect them personally, their colleagues, or their family members. This is important because substantial job-related stressors and exposures lead to increased risk for psychiatric issues, including suicidal behavior among police officers (2–4). It should be noted that studies related to crisis intervention and suicide prevention training for police officers have been conducted in several countries (5–12).
Police may play a role in suicide prevention not only because police officers may prevent suicides when they interact with suicidal individuals. Police may contribute to suicide prevention indirectly.
The use of illicit drugs is associated with suicide (13). For example, a number of cross-sectional or retrospective studies have found an association between cannabis use and suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, or completed suicide (14–20). In one of these studies, a research group in Brisbane, Australia examined same sex twin pairs discordant for cannabis dependence to determine relationships between cannabis use and major depressive disorder, suicidal behavior, and suicidal ideations (14). Cannabis-dependent individuals had odds of suicide attempt or ideation that was 2.5–2.9 times higher than their non-cannabis-dependent twin. In another example, a research report suggests that heroin users are 14 times more likely than peers to die from suicide (21). Deaths among heroin users attributed to suicide range from 3 to 35% (21). A study in Rome, Italy has reported excess suicide mortality of 6.3 times among heroin users to that expected among matched peers (22). Police and other law enforcement agencies in many countries work hard to fight drug crimes. For example, in the U.S., there is a drug arrest every 19 seconds (23). When police fight drug trafficking and distribution, they decrease the availability of drugs, which may reduce suicides.
Antisocial behavior is also associated with suicide (24–28). For example, it has been reported that “Studies have revealed antisocial personality disorder or criminal behavior to be a predictor of subsequent suicide attempts” (28). Police Community Outreach Programs and other similar projects may reduce antisocial behavior, especially among young people (21–32). Consequently, this may reduce suicides. In summary, good police work may decrease suicide rates, directly and indirectly.
The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
2. Stanley IH, Hom MA, Joiner TE. A systematic review of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics. Clin Psychol Rev (2016) 44:25–44. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2015.12.002
5. Helfgott JB, Hickman MJ, Labossiere AP. A descriptive evaluation of the Seattle Police Department’s crisis response team officer/mental health professional partnership pilot program. Int J Law Psychiatry (2016) 44:109–22. doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2015.08.038
6. Compton MT, Broussard B, Reed TA, Crisafio A, Watson AC. Surveys of police chiefs and sheriffs and of police officers about CIT programs. Psychiatr Serv (2015) 66(7):760–3. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201300451
8. Ritter C, Teller JL, Marcussen K, Munetz MR, Teasdale B. Crisis intervention team officer dispatch, assessment, and disposition: interactions with individuals with severe mental illness. Int J Law Psychiatry (2011) 34(1):30–8. doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2010.11.005
10. Kirst M, Francombe Pridham K, Narrandes R, Matheson F, Young L, Niedra K, et al. Examining implementation of mobile, police-mental health crisis intervention teams in a large urban center. J Ment Health (2015) 24(6):369–74. doi:10.3109/09638237.2015.1036970
11. Lukaschek K, Baumert J, Ladwig KH. Behaviour patterns preceding a railway suicide: explorative study of German Federal Police officers’ experiences. BMC Public Health (2011) 11:620. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-620
12. Kohrt BA, Blasingame E, Compton MT, Dakana SF, Dossen B, Lang F, et al. Adapting the crisis intervention team (CIT) model of police-mental health collaboration in a low-income, post-conflict country: curriculum development in Liberia, West Africa. Am J Public Health (2015) 105(3):e73–80. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302394
13. Bohn M, Sher L. Suicide and substance abuse. 3rd ed. In: Kranzler HR, Korsmeyer P, editors. Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Addictive Behavior. Greenwich, CT: Macmillan Publishing Co. (2008). p. 70–5.
14. Lynskey MT, Glowinski AL, Todorov AA, Bucholz KK, Madden PA, Nelson EC, et al. Major depressive disorder, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt in twins discordant for cannabis dependence and early-onset cannabis use. Arch Gen Psychiatry (2004) 61:1026–32. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.61.10.1026
15. Serafini G, Pompili M, Innamorati M, Rihmer Z, Sher L, Girardi P. Can cannabis increase the suicide risk in psychosis? A critical review. Curr Pharm Des (2012) 18(32):5165–87. doi:10.2174/138161212802884663
19. Kung H, Pearson JL, Liu X. Risk for male and female suicide decedents ages 15-64 in the United States. Results from the 1993 National Mortality Followback Survey. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2003) 38:419–26. doi:10.1007/s00127-003-0656-x
20. Arendt M, Munk-Jørgensen P, Sher L, Jensen SO. Mortality following treatment for cannabis use disorders: predictors and causes. J Subst Abuse Treat (2013) 44(4):400–6. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2012.09.007
23. U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Crime in the United States, 2009. (2010). Table 29. Available from: http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/arrests/index.html
25. Roth KB, Borges G, Medina-Mora ME, Orozco R, Ouéda C, Wilcox HC. Depressed mood and antisocial behavior problems as correlates for suicide-related behaviors in Mexico. J Psychiatr Res (2011) 45(5):596–602. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.10.009
26. Douglas KS, Lilienfeld SO, Skeem JL, Poythress NG, Edens JF, Patrick CJ. Relation of antisocial and psychopathic traits to suicide-related behavior among offenders. Law Hum Behav (2008) 32(6):511–25. doi:10.1007/s10979-007-9122-8
29. Ervin JD, Swilaski M. Low-Cost Innovations: Community Outreach through Children’s Programs. The Police Chief. (2004). Available from: http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=404&issue_id=92004
30. Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute. Decreasing Crime By Increasing Involvement: A Law Enforcement Guidebook For Building Relations In Multi-Ethnic Communities. Portland, OR: Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute (2011). 75 p.
31. Seattle Police Department. Community Outreach (2016). Available from: http://www.seattle.gov/Police/community/default.htm
Keywords: police, suicide, drugs, antisocial behavior
Citation: Sher L (2016) Commentary: Police and Suicide Prevention. Front. Public Health 4:119. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00119
Received: 20 April 2016; Accepted: 26 May 2016;
Published: 08 June 2016
Edited by:Frederick Robert Carrick, University of Cambridge, USA
Reviewed by:Marlene Belew Huff, University of Kentucky, USA
Jean-Philippe Raynaud, CHU de Toulouse, France
Ahmed Eid Elaghoury, Ministry of Health, Egypt
Aron Tendler, Brainsway, USA
Copyright: © 2016 Sher. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: Leo Sher, email@example.com