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A new research brief analyzes 1,287 deaths by suicide of law enforcement and correctional officers from 2016 to 2022. This is the first examination of a national, comprehensive data collection effort on public safety deaths by suicide. It categorizes the data on these deaths by year of occurrence, agency details, geographic location, demographic attributes, position specifics, help-seeking behaviors, life challenges the person encountered before their death, and details about the death event.

This research is the result of a collaboration begun late last year between the Center for Justice Research and Innovation at CNA and First H.E.L.P. The nonprofit First H.E.L.P. has made notable strides toward collecting a comprehensive, reliable, and valid dataset on officer suicides, one of the most extensive efforts undertaken in this area. CNA brings deep experience in data analysis and officer wellness to the collaboration.

Among many other findings, the analysis found that annual public safety personnel deaths by suicide rose from 152 in 2016 to a peak of 234 recorded deaths in 2019 before declining during the pandemic. The number of deaths climbed again in 2022. Other important findings were based on information gathered by First H.E.L.P. about each death from friends and family. This data showed that though 60 percent of officers who died by suicide were known to be experiencing some form of adversity, only 23 percent were reported to be seeking any kind of help.

"The absence of a systematic, national, and comprehensive data collection effort of public safety deaths by suicide has prevented the field from better understanding the extent of the problem," said Dr. Dan Lawrence, a senior research scientist at the CNA Center for Justice Research and Innovation. "First H.E.L.P. has assembled the most comprehensive dataset that's been released to date on this extremely important issue."

First H.E.L.P. is an organization that works to reduce mental health stigma for first responders through education, advocating for benefits for those suffering from post-traumatic stress, acknowledging the service and sacrifice of first responders lost to suicide, assisting officers in their search for healing, and bringing awareness to suicide and mental health issues.

"This data creates a solid baseline of year-over-year estimates that encompass more than just the raw numbers. We hope to foster cultural change and improved prevention programs," said Karen Solomon, founder of First H.E.L.P. "Now that the field can clearly see the 'who,' we can start looking at the 'how' of stopping suicide."

The CNA Center for Justice Research and Innovation works with law enforcement agencies to identify the characteristics associated with positive safety and wellness outcomes and provides targeted technical assistance to improve officer readiness. To learn more about our research in this area visit: Officer Safety and Wellness | CNA