In the wake of an “extraordinarily painful” spate of suicides in recent months, the city plans to provide a “host of options” to NYPD officers — including increased access to mental health care — Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.
Nine NYPD officers have died by apparent suicide this year, including a 56-year-old off-duty officer who authorities say shot himself on Wednesday.
At a news conference on Thursday, de Blasio said the NYPD would do “everything conceivable” to address what he described as a crisis.
“We have lost officers in the past, but this concentration is devastating,” he said.
In an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer earlier this week, NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said the department “had averaged four to five suicides a year over the last few years.”
The NYPD has already implemented a plan to make peer counselors available to officers at every precinct in the city, and is taking steps to provide a range of additional counseling and therapy options, de Blasio said.
The city is also working to address an issue Monahan raised in the WNYC interview.
“Some of our employees were struggling to get the care they needed because providers told them they didn’t take our insurance,” de Blasio said. “Now that we see that problem, we can act on it quickly and make more options available to officers.”
“That’s something that we think we can resolve in a matter of days,” he added.
The mayor also said the police department would also take steps to implement a “clearer policy” on the use of medication to treat mental health issues.
“A lot of officers got the impression that if you’re on a medication to address a mental health issue, that somehow that could compromise your ability to serve as an officer,” he said. “That is not true.”
“You can go to a doctor, get appropriate medication and serve as a police officer. There is no contradiction,” he said. “We need our officers to understand that.”
Many, including de Blasio’s father who died by suicide when the mayor was 18, find it difficult to ask for or accept help when they are struggling.
“I remember people trying to offer [my dad] help, and he didn’t know how to accept it,” he said. “He thought it was some sign of weakness to accept help.”
The mayor, along with Monahan and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, have been working to dispel that notion and assure officers they can ask for help if they need it.
“There’s many, many areas we’re going to have to work on, but it begins with communication, and letting our officers know that help is available,” de Blasio said.