Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Abraham S. Fischler College of Education

Advisor

Frank Colaprete

Committee Member

Grace A. Telesco

Committee Member

Chad Waxman

Abstract

Police suicide has consistently remained a more likely cause of death for police officers than being killed in the line of duty for the past several years. Understanding the risk factors and precursors associated with suicide is crucial to changing this anomalousness. Prevention, early intervention, treatment, support, and reducing stigma, may help lower the number of police officers committing suicide.

Several research studies have found the rate of suicide for police officers to be double that of the general population (Chopko, Palmieri & Facemire, 2013; Violanti, 2010; Lewis, 2014; Charbonneau, 2000). The day-to-day job of policing may be stressful and traumatic, but it is important to remember that police officers must pass physical, medical, and psychological health exams showing them to be in excellent health prior to being hired (Chae & Boyle, 2013).

Mental health concerns such as depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and co-occurrence disorders such as alcohol abuse are significantly more prevalent in police officers (Chae & Boyle, 2013; Violanti et al., 2008; Basinska & Wiciak, 2012; Bishopp & Boots, 2014). Chae and Boyle’s (2013) meta-analysis concluded five prominent factors of police work that may affect suicidal ideation. Those factors are organizational stress, critical incident trauma, atypical work hours, relationship problems, and alcohol abuse. Due to atypical work hours being a job requirement known prior to hire, this factor will not be measured.

The purpose of this study is to identify common risk factors and behavioral changes of police officers in order to assist with early prevention and intervention of suicide. Through the use of five validated instruments measuring organizational stress, critical incident trauma, relationship problems, and alcohol abuse, these variables will be compared with suicidal ideation in officers at a mid-sized police department in the Northeast region of the United States.

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