Widows Of Police Suicide Speak Out
May 18, 2019
Heard on Weekend Edition Saturday
More police officers now die by suicide than in the line of duty. NPR's Scott Simon talks with the widows of four officers who took their own lives about losing their husbands to suicide.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
There is a suicide crisis in the United States. We're going to talk about it frankly, and our story may disturb some listeners. If you feel you're in a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.
The national suicide rate has increased by nearly 30 percent since 1999 in this blessed America. There are now more than twice as many suicides in the United States as homicides. Many involve drugs, drinking or depression, losing a job, a loved one, or stress. But experts say there is no one, two or 10 causes.
We have a story today to begin a series of reports about some of the people touched by suicide.
SIMON: Seven Chicago police officers have taken their own lives in the past 12 months. Father Brandt goes out to crime scenes and station houses if officers feel the need to talk to a priest, if not a therapist. Across the country, at least 159 officers died by suicide in 2018.
Kristen Clifford's husband was Officer Steven Clifford of the Nassau County, N.Y., police. They had just gotten a puppy. They looked forward to having children. One day in May 2017, he wasn't responding to her text messages, so she drove home.
Melissa Swailes was married to Officer David Swailes of the Los Angeles Police Department. They had four sons. David Swailes had symptoms of post-traumatic stress from his time in the U.S. Navy. On their youngest son's second birthday, Melissa Swailes came home and found her husband behind their bathroom door.
Erin Gibson was married to Sergeant Clinton Gibson of the Liberty Lake, Wash., police. They were high school sweethearts. They had four children.
Nicole Rikard had recently married Officer John Rikard of the Asheville, N.C., police. He was a recovering alcoholic, but he drank the night he took his life. She got a phone call from one of his lieutenants.
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