Bismarck, ND – Last year, more officers and fire fighters died by suicide than incidents in the line of duty.
In North Dakota earlier this year, a Walsh County Deputy took his own life. Last year, a Napoleon police officer killed himself shortly after losing his job. But it’s important to note, there is help out there.
They put their lives on the line.
“Each and every day a law enforcement officer puts on the uniform, they are potentially faced with a dangerous situation,” Lt Michael Roark with the ND Highway Patrol said.
This type of work stays with you.
“When you have to knock on a door at three in the morning and bring that news, whether its a teen killed in a roll over crash or whatever circumstance,” the NDHP Senior Chaplain Rev. Lester Wolfgram said.
And that stress can be more deadly than being in the line-of-duty. According to the Ruderman Family Foundation, in 2017, 103 firefighters and EMS workers died by suicide. 93 died in the line of duty. 140 law enforcement officers died by suicide. 129 died in the line of duty.
“There are codes of silence in different professions and law enforcement may be one of those. Law enforcement sometimes and other professionals fear reaching out for help could result in administrative leave or worse and what I’ve found is actually the opposite,” North Dakota’s Suicide Prevention Director Alison Traynor said.
There are plenty of resources available.
“A critical incident stress management team…Officers can speak to other officers. They can be debriefed with high stress situations… they can go and speak to counselors,” Lt. Roark said.
The highway patrol has 14 chaplains throughout the state to talk with.
“Talking is one of the best ways to deal with that. That stress builds. It’s kinda like an balloon that can only get so big and there is a point where it might burst,” Rev. Wolfgram said.
It doesn’t have to get to that point.
Traynor says the majority of people who seek help do get better.