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Depression can hurt those in law enforcement. It is a struggle many officers face. Many people believe officers can hurt people of other races but there are sides of the story seldom spoken of. This is one of those stories from an anonymous source.
I was married to the love of my life for 19 years. Unfortunately, he suffered from depression which got worse as the years went on. He was in law enforcement, he was a wonderful husband, and a wonderful father, and a great man. But as the years went on, his depression sank in deeper and deeper. When our daughter had just turned 18, I came home from a second-shift job one night, and I noticed the house was very dark – there were no lights on. I had to cross the room to get to the light switch and, in doing that, I tripped over his body. I felt around and realized it was him. I turned on the light and found he had shot himself through the head. As a former EMT and firefighter, because of the massive head wound, as well as the blood, I realized it was a lost cause.
As I did not have a cell phone, I reached for the living room phone and dialed 9-1-1 and laid the receiver down and started CPR while yelling so that the dispatcher could hear me. I said, ‘My husband is shot through the head. Please send everything you’ve got.’ The door to the house was already open, so I continued CPR until the EMTs and fire department came. At that time, when they arrived and came in the house, it was then I turned him over to them. They checked for vital signs, continued the CPR, but realized because of the massive head wound, there was no hope. His body was cooling. It was my decision to stop the CPR, and we had to leave him there on the floor until the police arrived. They came there and did their investigation and realized it was a suicide, so they had to call the coroner and about 30 minutes later, the coroner arrived and pronounced him dead at the scene. The EMTs put his body in the ambulance and drove him to the hospital where his body was turned over for an autopsy. Then I had to contact his parents and tell them what had happened and that he was at the hospital awaiting autopsy.
The hardest part was to have to inform our daughter who was in her freshman year at college which was 5 hours away. I did not want to call the college and then inform her. I wanted to inform her myself, in person, as her mother. I gave a spare house key to the police if they needed further investigation. I packed a suitcase and called a friend to take care of the cats and dog. I packed and left for my daughter’s college. It was the longest 5-hour trip of my life. When I got to the college, it was almost 7 in the morning. I contacted the Dean of girls at the student union lobby. She met me at the student union lobby and together, we went to my daughter’s dorm room. My daughter was just waking up to begin her classes, and we sat her down to tell her the terrible news.
At first, my daughter said, ‘No, this can’t happen.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, baby, your daddy has passed.’ My daughter said, ‘Mom, you’re an EMT and firefighter. Why couldn’t you save him?’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, baby, I can’t save the world. There was nothing we could do.’ And then my daughter almost howled in anguish and started to cry. I reached over, gathered her in my arms, and I held her close and let her cry. We were both crying. My daughter said, ‘God, what’s gonna happen now?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, baby, but whatever happens, we will get through this together.’ I took my daughter to a hotel room. The Dean excused her from classes. So that day we spent at the hotel room overnight until the next morning. During that time, we cried, we grieved, and the next morning, my daughter who had her own car followed me back home.
When we got home, I did not let her back in the house because it had not been cleaned up – blood was everywhere. I went in the house and got things she wanted out of her room. We stayed at another hotel close by. As the investigation was over, I had to call a service to clean up the house of the blood, tissue, and bone fragments, and that took the whole next day to do that. Once the house was cleaned up, we went back in and the next day, the autopsy report was available. The coroner ruled it as a suicide. I released his body to the funeral home. We went there with his parents to make funeral arrangements. The visitation and funeral were absolutely heartbreaking. There was a line of patrol cars and fire trucks almost a mile long to his gravesite. There, amongst his friends and family, he was laid to rest. His battle was over. Then, the healing had to begin. My daughter and I went through counseling. I was having nightmares and enduring a depression I never knew was possible. But I had to stay strong for my daughter.
While my daughter did well with counseling, I did not. Because I had shielded her from a lot of his depression, things had built up inside me. A feeling of helplessness, grief, anger, and devastation. I was referred to a psychiatrist who prescribed some medication to get me through this. The medications did help, but nothing in this world will ever erase the difficulty of that situation. I would recommend that during these traumatizing episodes that can happen in our lives, please seek counseling and help. Reach out to friends, family members, and especially your children and reach to God. There is no way to get through anything like this without a lot of help. Even if you don’t think you need help after suffering a trauma like this, you can’t do it alone. Make the best of any resources available and deal with it honestly and openly. Although the wounds may never heal, life does go on, and we use these lessons to help other people.
Because of the help and the support my daughter and I sought, we are not only stronger, but our compassion for our fellow humans has broadened. My daughter is now a registered nurse and is a critical part in helping save lives. For two years, I volunteered for the local chapter of NAMI (National Association for the Mentally Ill) as a peer counselor for spouses and children of the mentally ill. I am now happily remarried but have never lost compassion and caring for those who suffer. From my friend, Pookie.