A New York Police Department sergeant died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound Saturday afternoon, a law enforcement source told CNN.
NYPD officials went to the sergeant’s home after he failed to show up for work, the source said, adding that the 30-year-old with eight years’ experience on the police force was pronounced dead at the scene around 4 p.m.
His death marks the department’s seventh suicide this year, according to police.
Asking for help
The suicide rate in the United States has seen sharp increases in recent years. Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.
“The tragic news today that another member of the NYPD has been lost to suicide breaks our hearts, and is a deep sorrow felt by all of New York City,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement released late Saturday.
“To every member of the NYPD, please know this: it is okay to feel vulnerable. It is okay if you are facing struggles,” he said. “And it is okay to seek help from others. You may not know this, and it may be hard to imagine, but you are not out there all by yourself.”
In June, after a fourth New York City police officer died by suicide, Commissioner O’Neill referred to the deaths as a “mental health crisis” that the NYPD and “the law enforcement profession as a whole must take action.”
More than 100 law enforcement officers in the United States have taken their own lives in 2019, Chief of Department Terence Monahan said in June.
“We have to be willing to talk if people have a problem, to come forward and, more importantly, we have to be willing to listen,” he told reporters at the time.
“We’re looking at what we can do as an agency. How we can handle this better. How we can help out people. Cops run out day in and day out and save people’s lives that they don’t know. We have to figure out how to save our own lives.”
The NYPD has averaged about four or five suicides each year over the past five years, O’Neill said in June.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement release by his office: “I want to say as loudly and clearly as I can: it is okay to ask for help. If you or a loved one is in need: ask. Your whole city stands in support of you ready to answer the call.”
Study finds barriers
A 2018 study by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization, found policemen and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. But there are several barriers preventing first responders from accessing mental health services, “including shame and stigma,” the paper states.
“These same barriers prevent families from talking openly about the suicide of a loved one, thereby contributing to silence and lack of awareness around the issue of first responder suicide,” according to the study.
“We need to end the silence that surrounds the issue of first responder mental health. We should celebrate the lives of those lost to suicide – at national monuments such as the National Law Enforcement Memorial, in the media, and within police and fire departments around the country,” Ruderman Family Foundation President Jay Ruderman said in a statement accompanying the study. “Also, departments should encourage or require first responders to access mental health services annually. This will enable our heroes to identify issues early and get the help that they need. It will save lives.”
If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, you can call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people in suicidal crisis or distress.
You can also text HOME to 741741 to have a confidential text conversation with a trained crisis counselor from Crisis Text Line. Counselors are available 24/7.
CNN’s Morales reported from New York and Almasy reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph, Brynn Gingras and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.