A survey of first responders in Virginia found almost 8% had recent thoughts of suicide — double the rate of the general population.
The statewide mental health survey of more than 5,000 first responders found one in four say depression is a consequence of their work.
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler and Virginia State Police Trooper Michael McSellers aren’t surprised by the results.
One of the most traumatic events of McSellers’ career was a truck crash with the driver trapped. Years later, post-traumatic stress from that incident led him to take leave and seek help.
He returned to duty with a mission to help others, sharing his story in a video he helped create with a group called Blue H.E.L.P.
“My mission ever since when I came back to work was like, you know, we have to jump on top of this, we to get this info out there in order have to save more lives, help more police officer
Roessler shares that mission.
After a detective killed himself outside a district station in 2017, officers raised the issue.
“I was asked, ‘Chief, what’s the department doing about police suicide in our agency?’” he said.
He responded by going public with his own mental health struggles.
“To stand in front of my troops and let them know it’s OK not to be OK and I too struggle every day and I seek the help of a professional over nine years so I can live well,” he said.
The Fairfax County Police Department has mental health professionals on staff and mandated mental health checks.