Adams Confronts NYPD Suicides With New Solutions

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Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Friday organized a public announcement urging meditation and mindfulness training for all police officers in New York City a month after three NYPD police officers committed suicide in a span of ten days.

Adams, a 22-year veteran of the NYPD, joined the ranks of mental health experts and elected officials in believing this implementation can alleviate stress, anxiety, and recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder suffered from experience on the field. 

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams

“The stress and trauma that our police officers face on a daily basis, where they are frequently forced to make life-or-death decisions, are all too familiar to me as a former NYPD captain and member of the force,” said Adams. “While we took a positive step toward addressing this crisis with the formation of the Health and Wellness Task Force, we have to do more. Meditation clearly saved my life when I left the police department. Not only monks meditate, borough presidents meditate, teachers meditate, doctors and lawyers meditate. Let’s give our officers these tools.”

The program Adams hope to implement would move backwards the effects of the stress response, promote relaxation and rest, enhance focus and attention, encourage self-connection, and help officers confront emotional trauma.

Last month, Joseph Calabrese, a 58-year-old homicide detective, was discovered on Rockaway Beach with a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound, only a day after Deputy Chief Steven Silks, 62 at the time of his death, was found dead in his patrol car.

“The job of a New York City police officer has always been a stressful one, but policing today is more mentally and emotionally taxing than ever before. We applaud Borough President Adams for promoting initiatives to help police officers reduce and manage stress. We need this kind of support from all of our city leaders as we shoulder the ever-increasing burdens of the protecting our city,” said Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick J. Lynch.

Adams consulted medical experts and organizations based in Brooklyn to see what methods and initiatives can be taken to alleviate the overwhelming stress and medical attention for law enforcement officers.

“The stress and trauma of policing are a public health emergency. A comprehensive wellness program, grounded in meditation, energized by healthy food and exercise, and sustained by group and community support, is essential to the work and lives of all who protect and serve,” said James S. Gordon, MD, author of “The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma” and founder and executive director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

“We have seen the transformational impact that meditation can have for a person’s health and personal well-being. We see people from all walks of life and backgrounds begin to look brighter as they make meditation part of their daily routine. We are in support of this mission to help others with respect and honor, to lessen the burden in their minds,” said Pamela Brewer of the Brooklyn Meditation Center.

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, developed by University of Massachusetts Medical Center Professor John Kabat-Zinn, is an eight-week program that offers intensive mindfulness to assist with stress, depression, anxiety, allowing people to take action in ways to better their lives mentally and physically. MBSR is currently being implemented in police officer training, reducing the physiological and psychological effects of pain and emotional reactivity. This has included meditation, behavioral exploration, and yoga.

“UpRising Yoga applauds Borough President Adams’ initiative. As yoga and mindfulness educators, we are keenly aware of the benefits of trauma-informed yoga life skills, particularly for our brave first responders. We stand ready to assist in any way we can to improve their well-being to the benefit of all New Yorkers,” said Jill Ippolito, founder and director of UpRising Yoga.

New York City is, unfortunately, one of many police departments around the country that suffer from law enforcement suicides.

According to Blue H.E.L.P., an organization that offers mental health services and post-traumatic stress for law enforcement, 97 law enforcement officials committed suicide in 2019- only halfway through the year. The highest cause of death for law enforcement is suicide.

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.