Law enforcement officers usually undergo extensive background checks, involving numerous stages, that look for disqualifiers and other information that may make an applicant unsuitable for the job. For instance, psychological testing examines personality and psychopathology to see if deeper concerns exist. However, regardless of how much screening occurs, some issues will be overlooked, some will not present at that time, and others will appear later.
One of the authors examined suicide deaths of law enforcement and correctional officers from 2017 to 2019. Numerous mental health concerns (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, unknown mental health issues, addiction) were noted. However, depression was the most common mental health condition reported, and it was indicated in approximately 32% of completed suicides. This number is believed to be much higher because additional incidents may not have been cited as involving depression or victims lacked a clinical diagnosis at the time of death.
Though common and highly treatable, depression can be dangerous if left unaddressed. The severity of someone’s struggles varies, but sufferers often turn to maladaptive coping strategies to help reduce or alleviate symptoms. This makes a proper diagnosis more difficult and may lead to secondary issues (e.g., substance abuse or medical problems).