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Op-ed: Giving cops the help they need to save their lives

City Councilman Justin Brannan (Photo via NYC Council)

BY JUSTIN BRANNAN

It has been almost three months since the tenth New York City police officer took their life this year. I pray we will see many decades pass before another police officer suicide occurs.

In October, the city and the NYPD announced a pilot program, Finest Care, which connects police officers with psychologists and psychiatrists from New York-Presbyterian affiliated facilities for the provision of services free of charge. 

With the holiday season upon us, I want to make sure our police officers are reminded that this anonymous service is available. 

The City’s Department of Investigation has not only declared that “the NYPD is facing a crisis” in its 51-page report issued in September but that “perceived stigmatization is a common explanation for underused services.” 

It is with this in mind that I sent a letter to the NYPD requesting information on the number of police officers who have taken advantage of these newly established mental health services from the New York-Presbyterian affiliated facilities. 

While the NYPD does not know the names of those police officers who received this service, it has been reported that they are being told the numbers. I think it’s important that we know if we’re getting this right.

In addition, I am working on legislation to allow all New York City employees who are required to carry a gun on their job be provided free and private mental health services from a doctor of their choosing as part of their New York City health benefits. The City would be required to pay the prevailing rate for these services. 

This will be well worth it if it provides the anonymity needed to remove the threat of stigmatization, allowing those New York City employees we count on every day to keep us safe, to not only continue to do their jobs in a most effective manner, but to keep them, and their families, safe from the devastation that results when someone takes their own life. 

It takes herculean courage to stare down the unknown everyday as a New York City cop. Cops must summon that same strength to ask for help. 

There is no shame in reaching out. We need to make that clear by giving them the support and the space they need. 

Brannan represents the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach in the City Council.

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