Police Officer Suicide Sounds Mental Health Alarm

Police and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, according to a 2018 report from the Ruderman Family Foundation.

On Tuesday, a high-ranking chief in the Chicago Police Department is believed to have committed suicide — and research shows the suicide rate for Chicago officers is higher than the national average.

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Commander Dion Boyd was a 29-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. 

He got a promotion just two weeks ago.

The father of two was found Tuesday at his office at CPD’s Homan Square facility, reportedly after shooting himself in the chest. 

According to a 2017 Department of Justice report on the CPD, the rate of suicides among Chicago police officers is more than 60% the national average, though statistics are difficult given the question of whether retirees and recruits are included in those figures. 

“It always hurts when you know the person,” said former Chicago police Superintendent Philip Cline, now the executive director of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. “I knew Dion Boyd and I’d just seen him about a week and a half ago. He seemed up. Laughing, talking.”

Cline says that sort of seemingly upbeat-on-the-outside attitude makes it difficult to know, and to realize, that an officer needs help and intervention. 

And there are places for that. 

The CPD says — in according with the consent decree that followed that Department of Justice report — the department has a dozen counselors available through its Employee Assistance Program. 

There are also chaplains. And 24-hour peer support is available.

Cline says attitudes about mental health have changed since his time on the force. 

“If you went for help back in 1970 you were perceived as weak. That’s no longer the case. If you go for help today, it’s seen as a smart move,” Cline said.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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