Suicide — 16 February 2016

Victoria police has confirmed a police officer took his own life on Wednesday night, making it the second suicide within the state’s police force in one week.

In a statement, Victoria police said it was “extremely saddened to confirm that one of our members from the southern metropolitan region died last night following an apparent suicide”.

“He was off-duty at the time,” the statement said.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family, friends and colleagues at this very difficult time.”

Three Victoria police members have killed themselves so far this year.

“The death by suicide of a police member is always cause for enormous concern,” Victoria police said.

“Looking after our people is one of our highest priorities. We know that anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress can all be triggered by the stressful situations our people can find themselves in.”

In October, the Victoria police chief commissioner, Graham Ashton, launched a review into the mental health and wellbeing of Victoria police employees. His announcement came two weeks after a senior constable took her own life while on duty at a Melbourne centre for victims of sexual assault.

The review will examine how Victoria police can support police officers during and after their career and make recommendations on how this support can be strengthened.

On Wednesday, Ashton told ABC radio that police stress and suicides were a “worsening situation” in Victoria.

“I’m seeing a lot more police suicides than I ever used to,” he told the ABC.

“This affects everyone differently and people absorb issues, absorb trauma and absorb things that they’re exposed to in different ways, and we have to understand that.”

The deaths follow the announcement on Monday by the Victorian police minister, Wade Noonan, that he would take three months’ leave from parliament due the toll of “constant exposure to details of unspeakable crimes and traumatic events”.

“It has been difficult to cope with the constant exposure to details of unspeakable crimes and traumatic events that are an everyday part of my role and accumulation of these experiences has taken an unexpected toll,” he said.

In December the National Coronial Information System released data on intentional self-harm rates among emergency services personnel, revealing 62 police service members took their own life across Australia between 2000 and 2012.

This article first appeared on ‘The Guardian’ on 11 February 2016.

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