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Leaders push for mental health resources after four Suffolk County police officers die by suicide in four weeks

Renewed mental health push after Long Island officers' deaths by suicide
Renewed mental health push after Long Island officers' deaths by suicide 02:18

LONG ISLAND, N.Y. -- There's a renewed focus on mental health among Long Island police officers, their colleagues and families Monday after four Suffolk County officers died by suicide in recent weeks.

When an officer dies in the line of duty, their funeral is filled with honor and reverence. But the cop who dies alone, by his or her own hand, has none. 

"Our entire department is hurting. This is beyond tragic. In four weeks we've had four suicides," said Suffolk PBA President Lou Civello. 

Suffolk's recent law enforcement suicides included two police officers, one probationary officer and one deputy sheriff. 

Nassau PBA President Tom Shevlin was a police officer for 25 years and is now sharing his story. 

"Things really turned to the dark side and I was drinking every day. Unfortunately, I started having suicidal thoughts," said Shevlin. "I started struggling personally and on the job at the same time. So it was really the perfect storm and my world's collided. I was at rock bottom." 

Shevlin's mission is to help first responders everywhere. 

"I have so much more to offer to help people get through this because we are out there struggling," he said. 

Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, of Family & Children's Association, agrees it's time to break the stigma. 

"The rates of suicide are much higher in law enforcement personnel than they are in any other population," said Reynolds. "Finding a way to say, 'Hey, are you OK,' and reaching out for help." 

"Financial issues, health issues, loss of a loved one due to suicide," said Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., who has suffered personal losses during his career. "If I didn't have the right support around me, who knows where I would be today." 

Toulon started a wellness and peer support unit while the PBA lobbies for an officers' bill of rights. 

"When they seek this help, to know that they're not going to lose their jobs, they're not going to be ostracized," said Civello. 

In her new budget, Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed $13 million in funding to provide mental help for officers statewide. 

"The suicide rate among law enforcement is 60% higher than the average population. My budget invests $13 million to provide mental help support to our officers and give them the helping hand they need. No one should have to suffer in silence," Hochul wrote on X. 

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or a suicidal crisis, you can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988. You can also chat with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline here.

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