In mid-June, after three New York police officers died by suicide in a two-week period, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill declared “a mental-health crisis” and encouraged cops to reach out for help when needed.
That crisis has only become more pronounced since then, as two additional officers have died in apparent suicides this summer, bringing the count up to five. The latest, Sgt. Terrance McAvoy, was found dead on Saturday. Per the New York Daily News, McAvoy was a 30-year-old sergeant who worked in the NYPD’s transit unit. He was found dead at his home in Staten Island.
The recent spate of suicides began during the first week of June, when both Deputy Chief Steven J. Silks and homicide detective Joseph Calabrese took their own lives in separate incidents over one 24-hour span. The two men were both veteran members of the NYPD with nearly 80 years of combined experience. Their deaths rattled the department and led to renewed local attention surrounding the wider epidemic of a mental health crisis among police officers, which—when combined with easy access to guns—can often turn fatal. After a third officer, Michael Caddy, shot himself on June 14, O'Neill called it a "mental health crisis" and promised immediate action. Seven NYPD officers have died by suicide in 2019 so far, an NYPD spokeperson confirmed.
The crisis worsened in late June, when 53-year-old officer Kevin Preiss became the fourth NYPD suicide of that month. McAvoy is now the fifth to die by suicide in two months. “Once again terrible news,” the Sergeants Benevolent Association tweeted on Saturday. “Tonight the NYPD lost a sergeant to suicide. We ask that everyone pray for his family, friends and Co-workers. The NYPD continues to go through a difficult time.”
As the New York Times notes, more NYPD members die by suicide each year than die in the line of duty. On Twitter, Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon urged officers to reach out for help and to make use of the NYPD’s mental health resources.
"It really sets you back on your heels when something like this happens," O'Neill told WNYC's Jami Floyd earlier this month, noting that he had created a task force to address mental health issues, and stressed that officers should come forward with issues they have, despite their fears of losing their jobs.
"Chances are...you're gonna be able to continue with your job depending on the level of crisis," O'Neill said. "This is a tough job to begin with—cops face difficult situations each and every day, they're exposed to a lot of trauma, but when this happens we have to take steps here."
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.