ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — According to a study conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation, police officers are more likely to die by suicide than to be killed in the line of duty.
In the month of July, three police officers in the City of Chicago committed suicide, an issue that brings the mental health of first responders to the forefront.
Brad Lindmark, the founder of the Greg Lindmark Foundation, says he has dealt with this subject first hand: seven years ago, his brother, a 30-year veteran of the Rockford Police Department, killed himself.
Brad created the foundation in hopes of helping other police officers cope with the mental stress of the job.
Lindmark said Thursday that the rise in suicides among police officers does not shock him, saying that currently, many officers are not only dealing with what they encounter on the street but other social factors as well.
“As a family that went through it, it’s a sad fact. But, it’s the fact. Until we wake up as a society and start showing support for our first responders it’s only going to get worse,” Lindmark said.
Freeport Police Chief Matt Summers said the past few years have been a struggle, with an increase in crime, COVID-19 lockdowns, and social justice protests stemming from the George Floyd murder all weighing on officer’s psyches.
“The mental health of all the officers is always top of my mind because I want everyone to be well,” Summers said.
Currently, there are 37 police officers working in the Freeport Police Department, but Summers said they are 10 officers short and many are working long hours to cover shifts.
“A lot of people don’t know or think about the lack of sleep officers get when they finish a night shift. They go home, go to court, and are in court most of the afternoon, and have to come back [to work],” he said.
“There’s officers that don’t have to come forward and say it,” Summers said of the strain he sees in his department. “You can see it. So, there’s times to pull them aside and say, hey, are you ok? What do you need Do you need time off? We’ll get somebody.”
Summers said they have brought on a social services provider, a chaplain, and a therapy dog. The department also uses the Lindmark Foundation as a resource.
“I guarantee that our foundation, nobody knows who is using it and nobody will know who is using our resources,” said Lindmark. “So, I will say, please, please seek help before you do something to yourself or anyone else.”
On August 5th, the Lindmark Foundation will be hosting its annual golfing fundraiser.