Depression and corrections officers: 5 signs and symptoms
Throughout our careers it becomes so easy to immerse ourselves in work that we often forget why we work
By Sgt. Barry Evert
First, I would like to apologize to my regular readers for my absence. Over the last few months, my life has changed drastically and taking care of my family became job number one again. What I learned through this time is what I want to share with all of you today.
Throughout our careers it becomes so easy to immerse ourselves in work that we often forget why we work. We get up and go to work every day for our families. Our wives, husbands, daughter and sons are why we do what we do. The money is nice, but it is not why we do what we do. We do our jobs to try to make a better world for our families. Often, it becomes too much.
A few months ago, my best friend, and fellow officer took his own life. This was a devastating blow to me. He was a good man and a hell of an officer. None of us saw it coming. This always seems to be the case, it sounds like anyway, but truly, I did not see it. After his death, we started to heal and learn. The number one rule I have always taught came to mind. Family first, always. We all make mistakes, and we have to live with them. None of them are worth taking our lives over.
This officer made some mistakes that could have gotten him in trouble at work. These mistakes in the big picture were minor. Some bad medication and alcohol took his life. Fair or not, it happened, and we can now all learn from it.
Someone told me during all this that when he did this it wasn't the easy way out for him, it was the only way. This officer left behind a loving wife and many friends. Suicide, regardless of the reason, is not the solution, and in hindsight he would have felt the same way. Tragically, he does not have the benefit of hindsight, as death is final. The benefit we have is that we can learn.
For many of us there have been times when we feel desperate. I would ask you to go back to my first article, "leave it at the gate" and re-read what I wrote there. Your family signed up for this job when you did. The support system at home is what will keep you whole, you can never forget that.
I would ask my readers to do this tonight: No excuses; go home tonight and hold the ones you love, and tell them how you feel. Life is too short not to. I have suggested this before, but mean it now more than ever. I pray that there will be no more law enforcement widows, especially to this tragic type of death, but we all know it will happen again. Do not let this be you. Take the time to hug your loved ones, and tell them your pain. They will gladly take some of this burden. Whether you think they are strong enough or not, they can handle it.
We have all heard the classic signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations, but most of them are predicated on premeditation. This was not the case with my friend, and more and more we are seeing a rise in suicides in law enforcement officers that seem to be spur of the moment, or induced by prescription drugs or alcohol; or both. Please heed my advice and look for these symptoms and learn how to deal with the underlying problems:
Drastic changes in mood or behavior: You may notice a partner whose attitude has changed. We all know we can be cranky from time-to-time, but a change in personality is a huge warning sign.
Missing work: Quite often those that are hurting will pull away from those they love. For many of us that can be both family and our partners. If your partner doesn't show up for work, please call to see what is going on.
Talking about suicide: Even when joking, there is not room for this. We are all guilty of it, but it is a warning sign. Do not allow your partners to joke about suicidal thoughts, as it may be a scream for help. If you notice this more than once or twice, talk to them about it.
A lack of making plans: We all love our time off and often talk about our next vacation. You know your partners better than anyone. If your partner quits talking about future plans, ask him/her about what they are planning for the next holiday. These talks can often bring someone back to reality.
Prescription drugs: Look out for one another. Unfortunately in our line of work we often get injured, both physically and mentally, and need prescription drugs to help. Follow the label's instructions, and do not drink alcohol with any narcotic drugs. If you know your partner is taking pain killers or psych medications, remind them that you are there for them, and that alcohol is off limits.
I know this is not my normal type of article, but over the last few months I have learned how important we are to each other. Make sure you are there for your partners, and that you stick with them no matter what.
This is not some generic advice, this article comes from the heart. I would ask all of you to say a prayer for all our hurting brothers and sisters, and dedicate yourself to ensuring their survival in the hell we work in. In loving memory of Officer Phillip Reynolds. 10-10.
As always, watch your six.