Sometimes people are okay with believing a “lie.” Sometimes, just going with the lie is just easier than facing the “truth.” The lie comes in many forms: white lies, broken promises, fabrication, the bald-faced, exaggeration, deception, plagiarism, and compulsive lying (McAllister). The lie can make you feel better in the moment. But long-term it can have serious implications, and even deadly consequences.
When discussing police suicide, the lie is particularly dangerous. It gives false hope that fixing such a multifaceted issue will be easy, that there is a simple answer or an easy solution. The truth? If it were easy, we would not be losing more officers to suicide than in the line of duty.
Telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth means everyone has to be honest. There are some who want to blame law enforcement suicide solely on the stress and trauma of the job. Making blanket statements like this is extremely dangerous. We must not discount the role of life choices, personal risk factors, and even events like childhood traumas or other forms of exposure that may have placed one at risk prior to becoming an officer.
There is no doubt that the job can and does play a role in completed suicide. But, again, we must be careful not to exaggerate (whether intentionally or not) how much of a role the job plays without having the data to back it up. We must also understand that correlation does not imply causation. Suicide is a multifaceted issue with numerous components. It cannot be easily understood nor explained.
I have been researching suicide among law enforcement for nearly 15 years and what I am not hearing anyone talk about are the things that happen behind closed doors. We see and feel the grief, we hear about the pain and the immense hurt of those left behind, but we rarely hear about the relationship issues, the pending divorce, infidelity, domestic issues, financial problems, mental health issues, the addictions, and so on. The truth: every family has secrets, every family has issues, and every family has moments of regret and turmoil.
The thing that brings us together is that we are all human. Often, we all struggle and hurt with many of the same human things. We have all loved. We have all lost—some more than others. Many of us are just trying to pick up the pieces, trying to make sense of what happened, and trying to make life seem livable again. And the truth is, every second, every minute, and every day can feel like an eternal struggle in an ocean filled with quicksand.
I know loss. Sadly, I know it all too well. However, I won’t allow myself to hide behind lies. The lies keep us quiet. The lies make us feel safe, momentarily. The lies keep the truth from being heard. I believe the truth will help answer many questions and will help us better understand why suicide seemed like a viable option.
If we want to address law enforcement suicide in a significant way, we all have to be open and honest. Those who have left us cannot speak, but we need to do the best we can in their absence to make sense of the situation we are left with. We need to be able to better understand why our loved ones, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and so on believed suicide was a viable option or even their only option. We need to hear the good and the bad. Otherwise, the lie wins.
The lie is part of what keeps the stigma and taboo strong. The lie makes us believe that keeping secrets protects us. The truth: The lie being perpetuated is not saving lives—if anything, it is putting them at risk.
Will you help stop the lie by sharing the truth?
McAllister, D. (n.d.).Eight types of lies that people tell.Retrieved June 27, 2019, from: https://www.thehopeline.com/different-kinds-of-lies-you-tell/