‘It's Not a Weakness:' NYC's Top Cop Speaks on Mental Health After NYPD Suicides

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting 'Home' to 741741

What to Know

  • NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill is urging members of the department who are struggling to seek help
  • It comes after the suicides of two NYPD officers in just 24 hours this week.
  • If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255

New York City's top cop is asking members of the NYPD to seek help if they need it in the wake of the suicides of two officers in less than 24 hours. 

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill spoke candidly about mental health among police officers in an exclusive interview with News 4's David Ushery on Friday afternoon. It comes in the wake of the deaths of Detective Joseph Calebrese, who took his own life on Plumb Beach Thursday afternoon; and Deputy Chief Steven Silks, who served in the department for 38 years and was just weeks away from retirement when he took his own life earlier this week. 

"To have two people kill themselves within ten hours is just - nothing brings us to our knees, but this is close," O'Neill said. 

On Friday morning, O'Neill sent a note to all 55,000 officers and civilian employees of the NYPD, saying in part "before you can take care of others, it's imperative that you first take care of yourselves. Seeking help is never a sign of weakness -- it's a sign of great strength."

In Friday's interview, O'Neill added, "You can't think you're not alone."

The deaths of both cops comes after News 4 highlighted growing concerns among members of law enforcement regarding officers taking their own lives. An I-Team survey of police across the country found 78 percent experienced critical stress on the job, with 68 percent saying that stress triggered unresolved emotional issues.

Sixteen percent responded that they had thoughts of suicide. Despite those numbers nine out of 10 officers said there is a stigma attached to seeking help.

"This has to be a continuous process. This has to be done at roll calls. This has to be done in video training," O'Neill said. We need to talk about this. This can’t be a deep dark secret. People have to understand that there is help available."

O'Neill is asking NYPD officers and employees who need help to call the department's employee assistance hotline at 646-610-6730.

If you or someone you know is in a crisis, including at risk of suicide or self-harm, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained counselors are available 24/7.

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