Sheriff's Suicide Highlights Pressures of Law Enforcement

By: Rachel Alig Email
By: Rachel Alig Email

Authorities in Panola County, Miss., say Sheriff Hugh Wayne Bright took his own life Sunday.

The Centers for Disease Control says about 18 out of every 100,000 law enforcement officers will commit suicide. That works out to about 300 officers annually.

To give you an idea how big a problem it is, only about 150 officers are killed in the line of duty every year in the U.S.

Acting as the problem solver for an entire community can often times be fulfilling for a police officer. According to Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie, the pressure of doing so for many years can eventually take its toll.

"After years and years of providing solutions and answers, they internalize it, that they can't ask for help themselves," said Sheriff Sollie.

His wife, Diann Sollie, is an instructor of criminal justice at Meridian Community College who researched the suicide rate of police officers and discovered outstanding numbers. She found that a law enforcement officer is two times more likely to take their own life than a regular citizen.

"And many of the reasons are is that they are constantly exposed to stress every day in the job and that they are often isolated from the normal community," said Diann Sollie. "What they normally see is not always the pleasantries of society that you and I see."

At times, experts say the stress of being a law enforcement officer can be more than difficult. For some, it's just too overwhelming.

"So they internalize those issues to the point where they actually snap and go beyond the point of recovery and commit suicide," said Diann Sollie.

Many issues that police officers have to deal with show the negative side of society. If depression develops from these scenarios, having a gun worsens that situation.

"They have access to firearms," she said. "This firearm is always with them so if they do become depressed or stressed then the likelihood of committing suicide is much higher."

Professor Sollie said that if officers are going through a traumatic time, they must be willing to seek help. She told us counseling can be essential.

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