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Letter to the Editor   |    
Suicide Among Police Officers
ERLEND HEM, M.D.; ANNE MARIE BERG, M.A.; ØIVIND EKEBERG, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2004;161:767-a-768. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.4.767-a

To the Editor: Suicide among the police has been described as an epidemic (1). It is claimed that the suicide rate of law enforcement personnel is between two and three times that of the general population (2). Repetitive citations may have given the impression that the suicide rate among the police is appreciably greater than that for other occupational groups. However, research on police suicide has yielded widely varying rates, ranging from 5.8 suicides per 100,000 police officers per year in London to 203.7 per 100,000 per year in Wyoming (3). Perhaps the greatest challenge is the lack of empirical, reliable evidence on police suicides (1). Hence, the study by Dr. Marzuk et al. of the New York City police was most welcome. They stated that "with one exception…studies have shown police suicide rates to be lower than those of the general population" (p. 2070). This is not correct. We published what we believe to be the first systematic review of suicide among police in which strict methodological inclusion criteria were applied to the original studies (3). We identified 41 original studies, 20 of which fulfilled the inclusion criteria. All studies were from North America (13 studies), Europe (six studies), and Australia (one study). The results showed that some studies found elevated suicide rates among police officers; others showed an average or low rate of suicide. However, the rates varied widely and were inconsistent and inconclusive, especially because of methodological shortcomings. Most studies have been conducted in limited specific police populations, particularly in the United States. Local and regional variations in suicide can affect the rates of police suicide. Moreover, the reason for studying police suicide in a specific region may be due to a local "epidemic" of suicide in a subgroup. This may lead to publication bias. However, our review identified three nationwide studies of suicide in police from France (4), Germany (5), and England and Wales (6). These studies do not suggest an increased suicide rate in police (46), which is in accord with the results of Dr. Marzuk et al. However, we agree with the authors that these findings do not imply that suicide is not a problem among police officers.

Violanti JM: Police Suicide: Epidemic in Blue. Springfield, Ill, Charles C Thomas, 1996
 
Mohandie K, Hatcher C: Suicide and violence risk in law enforcement: practical guidelines for risk assessment, prevention, and intervention. Behav Sci Law  1999; 17:357–376
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Hem E, Berg AM, Ekeberg Ø: Suicide in police—a critical review. Suicide Life Threat Behav  2001; 31:224–233
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Bourgoin N: Le suicide dans la police nationale. Population  1997; 52:431–440
[CrossRef]
 
Schmidtke A, Fricke S, Lester D: Suicide among German federal and state police officers. Psychol Rep  1999; 84:157–166
[PubMed]
 
Kelly S, Bunting J: Trends in suicide in England and Wales, 1982–96. Popul Trends  1998; 92:29–41
[PubMed]
 
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References

Violanti JM: Police Suicide: Epidemic in Blue. Springfield, Ill, Charles C Thomas, 1996
 
Mohandie K, Hatcher C: Suicide and violence risk in law enforcement: practical guidelines for risk assessment, prevention, and intervention. Behav Sci Law  1999; 17:357–376
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Hem E, Berg AM, Ekeberg Ø: Suicide in police—a critical review. Suicide Life Threat Behav  2001; 31:224–233
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Bourgoin N: Le suicide dans la police nationale. Population  1997; 52:431–440
[CrossRef]
 
Schmidtke A, Fricke S, Lester D: Suicide among German federal and state police officers. Psychol Rep  1999; 84:157–166
[PubMed]
 
Kelly S, Bunting J: Trends in suicide in England and Wales, 1982–96. Popul Trends  1998; 92:29–41
[PubMed]
 
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