CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Police Department is one of many around the nation that now accepts that law enforcement officers, like America’s combat soldiers, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
CBS 2’s Mike Parker profiles a family that believes one of their own — a third generation cop — was afflicted with PTSD when he took his own life last month.
Erin Healy Ross recalls her brother, 38-year-old police officer Ryan Healy.
“I received a text from him saying that he had decided to die and that he would be in the house,” she recalls.
Erin and Ryan’s father, a retired cop, raced to the officer’s house.
She says, “I just remember my dad saying, ‘Do you know how many times I have been on this kind of a scene? But never in my life could I imagine that it would be my own son.’ And that was just heartbreaking.”
Her brother was dead from a single gunshot wound.
Healy worked out of the West Side 10th Police District. Toward the end, he told his family he was “overwhelmed” by what he was experiencing on the job: the bodies, the violence and especially crime’s effect on children.
He told his family those kids had no way out and no hope. Then there was the squad car accident that left him seriously injured in 2011.
“Some people can handle it and they go to work and they come home and they don’t think about it,” Erin says. “But obviously for Ryan, he did think about it.”
The family believes he may have suffered from PTSD.
The Chicago Police Department recognizes PTSD is real among officers and has programs to diagnose and treat it. There are also suicide-prevention programs, but the officer must come forward himself and ask for help. In the tough culture of law enforcement, that is often hard.
Ryan’s family wishes that he had reached out for help somewhere along the way.
There’s a plaque at the Chicago Police Memorial for officers who have died in the line of duty. It reads: “It is not how they died that made them heroes. It is how they lived.”
His family believes that applies to Ryan Healy, too.