CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Police deputy chief who committed suicide on Tuesday is now part of a sad, but growing list of men and women in blue.
Mental health experts said for some officers, the fear of seeking help is worse than the fear of dying because of the stigma attached to getting treatment.
As CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reported Wednesday, Deputy Chief Dion Boyd was described by those who knew him as always upbeat, and loved by everyone.
“When I heard what happened yesterday, I was just shocked,” said Philip Cline, former Chicago Police superintendent and now executive director of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
When asked if he would ever have expected such a thing, Cline said, “No, I don’t think anybody did.”
Boyd took his own life in his office at the Homan Square police facility on the city’s West Side. The 57-year-old was recently promoted.
Cline saw Boyd just two weeks ago.
“We talked, laughed, talked about some old times at the Narcotics Section,” Cline said. “You never know.”
The Chicago Police Department said there have been a total of 14 officers that have taken their lives since 2017 – four in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and two so far in 2020.
Cline had a message to other officers who might be having a tough time right now.
“It’s help. It’s no sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign you’re smart,” he said. “If you feel that you’re despondent or something is not going right in your life, that’s what these counselors are for.”
Calls from the public to the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline in Chicago have more than doubled since the start of the pandemic, going from about 40 calls a day to more than 90.
NAMI Chicago has a partnership with CPD, and police officers are among the callers.
“This is probably, the most challenging, the most painful time to be police, for multiple reasons,” said NAMI Chicago chief executive officer Alexa James.
James said creating a culture of caring with long term solutions is the key to helping police officers with their mental health.
“No officer is embarrassed if they throw out their back and they have to be on medical for a bit, right? That’s just what it is,” she said. “We have to think about emotional wellness, the same as we think about physical wellness.”
James also said officers need to be assured that if they’re reaching out for help, they’re protected and treatment is private.
Anyone who is struggling and needs someone to talk to can call the NAMI at (833) NAMI-CHI.
The NAMI Chicago helpline is available seven days a week. It is also the mental healthline for 311, whose operators transfer calls directly to NAMI Chicago when callers present a mental health need. The website for NAMI Chicago is namichicago.org.
The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation will be providing financial help to the family of Deputy Chief Boyd. They will help to bring in relatives from out of town for the funeral and cover funeral costs. The website for the foundation is cpdmemorial.org.