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Chicago Police Department Kicks Off Two-Day Mental Health Summit; 'We Are Here To End Officer Suicides'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Three Chicago police officers have died by suicide this year, and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot are seeking more mental health treatment for police and other emergency responders.

Johnson welcomed more than 100 mental health professionals from around the nation to Chicago on Wednesday to talk about ways to support officers, and help them maintain mental wellness.

"We are here to end officer suicides," Johnson said. "The goal is to eliminate suicide throughout the department. Now it's a lofty goal, but I believe it's one that is worth striving for."

The summit is one way for officials and mental health professionals to look at ways to support the men and women in uniform, and prevent more tragedy within the department.

The two-day summit will focus on officer wellness, peer support, and suicide prevention. Last year, there were four suicides within the department. This year, there have been three.

Chicago police have teamed up with the University of Chicago Crime Lab to help with the discussion, and create a plan moving forward.

The Chicago Police Department currently makes therapist available to all officers, who can get help on an anonymous basis.

"We have such a macho profession, that it's difficult sometimes for them to reach out for help; because it seems sometimes in the general public as a weakness, but it's actually a sign of strength for you to be able to do that," Johnson said.

Mayor Lightfoot also spoke this week about the need to make more mental health resources available to emergency responders, and to erase the stigma of dealing with mental health problems.

"Particularly, I think, in the first responder community, there's a lot of stigma around seeking help. So having peer support that isn't about discipline, isn't going to be documented anywhere, but it's just there to help people in need," Lightfoot said at the opening of the annual meeting of the Kennedy Forum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revolutionizing mental health care.

Last month, the Chicago Police Department more than doubled the number of therapists available to officers. The department now has 12 clinical therapists specializing in trauma.

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