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Letter to the Editor   |    
Suicide Among Police Officers
STEVEN D. ROTH, M.D., J.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2004;161:766-a-767. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.4.766-a

To the Editor: In their article, Dr. Marzuk and colleagues reviewed the rate of suicide among New York City police officers and compared it with the rate of suicide among New York City residents. After adjusting for demographic differences, they found that the rate of suicide was lower among the police officers (14.9 per 100,000 person-years) than among the general population (18.3 per 100,000 person-years).

It is estimated that over 90% of the individuals who commit suicide suffer from diagnosable psychopathology, including substance abuse and dependence, mood disorders, and psychotic disorders (1, 2). New York City police officers are screened for the presence of psychiatric disorders at the time that they are hired. No doubt, some preemployment psychopathology is missed, and some officers develop addiction problems and other psychiatric disorders while working in the department. It would be interesting to know the incidence and prevalence of such disorders among police officers during the period studied.

If we assume that few of the officers who committed suicide had diagnosable preemployment psychopathology, it may not be a fair comparison to look at their rates of suicide compared with the residents of New York City generally unless the prevalence of serious psychopathology among the comparison population is accounted for. The fact that the rate of suicide among police officers is about 80% of that of the general population may speak to the enormous stresses associated with police work, and the more proper conclusion may be that being a police officer greatly increases the risk of suicide in individuals suffering from no significant preemployment psychopathology.

Clark DC, Fawcett JA: Review of empirical risk factors for evaluation of the suicidal patient, in Suicide: Guidelines for Assessment, Management and Treatment. Edited by Bongar B. New York, Oxford University Press, 1992, pp 16–48
 
Goodwin FK, Runck BL: Suicide intervention: integration of psychosocial, clinical, and biomedical traditions, in Suicide and Clinical Practice. Edited by Jacobs DG. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Press, 1992, pp 1–22
 
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References

Clark DC, Fawcett JA: Review of empirical risk factors for evaluation of the suicidal patient, in Suicide: Guidelines for Assessment, Management and Treatment. Edited by Bongar B. New York, Oxford University Press, 1992, pp 16–48
 
Goodwin FK, Runck BL: Suicide intervention: integration of psychosocial, clinical, and biomedical traditions, in Suicide and Clinical Practice. Edited by Jacobs DG. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Press, 1992, pp 1–22
 
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