Suicides Spur Experts to Urge Help for Those in Crisis

Editor’s Note: Law enforcement officials have been posting to social media in recent days, talking about the emotional toll experienced by officers and the availability of resources to cope with those struggles. We reached out to a mental health expert, Dr. Robert Dicker. a psychiatrist at Zucker/Hillside Hospital, for his advice on how to help those who may be struggling. 

The recent loss of four Suffolk County law enforcement personnel to suicide has spurred a series of  moving social media posts urging officers and others to reach out for mental-health assistance and not suffer in silence.

HuntingtonNow asked Dr. Robert Dicker, a child/adolescent psychiatrist at Zucker/Hillside Hospital, to discuss suicide, mental health and treatments.

“We know that the rate of depression and suicide has gone up and is much more of a public health issue,” he said. “Covid and the pandemic has added to the sense of isolation. A  key focus is people’s loneliness. People can be suffering from other,
different kinds of triggers that push them from having some ideas and then starting to plan. The triggers can be job difficulties, interpersonal matters, isolation.”

Officers can be especially vulnerable, Dicker and others said, noting the availability of weapons, and a reluctance to report that they’re having problems out of concerns about the impact on their careers, and worries about confidentiality.

People should show “concern over their spouses, their children,” he said. “All right now are at a  higher risk and we need to pay attention to them. We don’t want to forget their loved ones and what they’re going through.
“People know how to respond when there’s a death from cancer. But we often don’t know how to respond to a completed suicide. People don’t respond the same way.
The loss is the loss is the loss. And we have to pay attention to those loved ones as well as it affects colleagues, co-workers, children, relatives.”
“When we  talk about clusters, it is important o be more vigilant, in looking out for colleagues who may be exhibiting different signs, such as an increase in alcohol use.”
Dicker said that there are good treatments available to help people who are depressed, including better medications and evidence-based treatments.

“There still remains a stigma around mental health, around emotional disorders, around being depressed, about seeking help,” he said. Those suffering “need to talk with people they trust, a health professional, a religious leader.”

He said the increase in mental heatlh worries is apparent in more visits to hospital emergency room visits, and calls to suicide hotline.

“The rates are all increased across all ages,” he said. “Some groups that were spared these higher numbers have higher numbers now. We have to pay attention.

“People experience that there’s no other solution and we have to figure out ways to intervene, between when they start to experience that there’s no solution and when they act.”
Suffolk County Sheriff Dr. Errol D. Toulon Jr., former Suffolk police commissioner Rodney Harrison, Inspector Kevin Williams, commander of the Second Precinct, officers Ilyssa Doughty Jaime Wustenoff and Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth all were part of video providing hotline information and encouragement to those needing help.


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