RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The suicide rate among law enforcement officers is rising.
Nationwide, on average, the risk of suicide among police is 54 percent higher than workers in other industries.
North Carolina advocates are hoping things will change.
“I think that people often forget that officers, they’re human, too,” said Kimberly Murray.
Murray is the director of the North Carolina chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors.
The national organization supports the mental health of officers in any way possible, including after traumatic events.
“They need to be able to deal with all that they’ve been through,” added Murray.
In North Carolina, 24 law enforcement officers have taken their lives since 2017.
Murray told CBS 17 there are a lot of factors involved, including PTSD, stress, and the community reaction impact after officer-involved shootings.
“Before it’s even investigated, they’re already crucified,” she explained.
On May 7, Raleigh police officers shot and killed 37-year-old Reuel Rodriguez-Nunez after he lit patrol cars on fire at the Southeast Substation on Rock Quarry Road.
Murray said these situations are tough.
“They don’t want to go out and kill people and have to shoot people. They don’t want to be put in that situation. But you know, they have a split-second decision,” she explained. “My heart breaks for them every time I see. Just like the Raleigh officer[s]. Because now, [they] have to live with that.”
There are resources available to help.
Many departments, including Raleigh police, have a police psychologist on staff.
A representative with the department told CBS 17 that officers also have access to trauma counseling and de-briefings.
That’s only half the battle.
“I don’t think this is in every situation, but I think there’s a stigma. ‘If I ask for help, is it going to go on my record?'” said Murray. “I think a lot of people, a lot of officers hold it in. I don’t think they want to be so-called labeled. You know that they needed help.”
Murray stresses that it’s crucial that officers take advantage of the resources and tools available.
“The burden if they’re involved in a shooting is so heavy,” she said. “Do they ever get over it? I doubt it. I’m sure they carry that burden with them forever.”