KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Law enforcement agencies across the country have lost at least 159 officers to suicide in 2018.
“We are losing officers at an alarming rate to suicide,” Javier Bustos, who is a police officer in Texas, said.
It’s an ongoing emotional battle, Bustos said, for both men and women in blue.
“We experience trauma several times a day. We see people who have been hurt and killed. And those images stay in our mind,” Bustos explained.
Bustos is a police officer in Texas and travels the country to speak with law enforcement communities about suicide.
He’s also an advocate of a Massachusetts based nonprofit ran by active and retired officers called Blue H.E.L.P.
The group estimates more officers took their own lives in the past three years than were killed in the line of duty.
It’s a crisis he wants to end.
“It’s a difficult time for us,” Bustos stated.
Blue H.E.L.P collects the grim data from law enforcement agencies and surviving families. The group told KCTV5 that in the last 24 hours, at least five officers have taken their own life in the U.S.
“You have to be strong enough to say I am weak right now, I need to get some help,” Bustos voiced.
Blue H.E.L.P‘s mission is to stop suicide. They deploy officers and mental health professionals to departments in need. Meantime, they fight the stigma around mental illness that’s been etched within police departments for decades.
“There is an improvement but still there’s a lot of people out there that don’t want to admit they have problems and they feel if they come forward, it could be a career ended. No one wants to lose their job,” Bustos said.
There is help available for those who need it. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK OR 1-800-273-8255. It provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
You can also chat live with a counselor by visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org.