On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that 2019 has been “one of the worst years for police suicides in the last decade,” after the suicide death of NYPD police officer Johnny Rios.
The following day, on Wednesday evening, another police officer, 56-year-old Robert Echeverria, died by suicide. He was a 25-year NYPD veteran.
Echeverria, from Queens, marked the NYPD’s ninth suicide death this year, and the seventh since June. That month alone, the NYPD lost four officers to suicide.
NYPD officials once again urged police officers to seek help, and called attention to the support and services available to them.
Gerard Rios, Johnny Rios’ older brother, said that Johnny had been depressed since losing their father in April and the suicide death of fellow officer Kevin Preiss in June. Rios, 35, served in the 50th Precinct in the Bronx and had been with the NYPD for seven years.
In June, NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill declared a mental health crisis in the department. “In less than 10 days’ time, the NYPD has lost three of its own to suicide,” O’Neill said on June 14. “This is a mental health crisis. And we—the NYPD and the law enforcement profession as a whole—absolutely must take action. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
The Times noted that more police officers die by suicide every year than are killed in the line of duty. Since 2014, the NYPD has lost, on average, five officers each year to suicide.
Mental Health Resources
NYPD officials have urged officers to seek help available to them including department chaplains, peer-support groups and phone and text message hotlines.
On Tuesday, following Rios’ death, NYPD Chief of Department Terence A. Monahan reiterated the importance of speaking up about this issue, and expressed the need for increasing the number of clinicians and peer volunteers available to counsel officers in crisis.
“We want a person, when they are in a real dark period—low point in their life—to realize they can come, they can talk to someone. That it is OK to ask for help,” he said, according to the Times.
“This isn’t something that we can speak of in hushed tones anymore,” Monahan continued. “We need to talk openly about it. Every precinct, every officer in the department. This is like any other disease. You get treated. You get well. You get back to work.”
O’Neill told CNN in a recent interview that this month the NYPD will begin “retraining” staff, and ultimately officers, on mental health matters, stress and suicide. “The goal is to have a peer representative in every precinct and every command who’s specifically trained to help an officer step back from the brink and find a trained professional to help,” CNN reported.
On their website, the NYPD lists numbers for their Employee Assistance Unit, Chaplain’s Unit, peer assistance program, and other resources.
The NYPD also recommends POPPA — Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance. It’s a “volunteer police support network committed exclusively to providing a confidential, safe and supportive environment for police officers and retirees.” Their helpline is 1-888-COPS-COP (1-888-267-7267).
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). It’s a free, 24/7 service that offers support, information, and local resources. You can also click here for additional hotlines within the tri-state area and the nation.