3rd Chicago police officer dies by suicide this month; department prioritizing staff mental health

Brown said he's working to tackle stigma of seeking mental health services

ByLeah Hope and Christian Piekos via WLS logo
Monday, July 18, 2022
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CPD emphasized its mental health resources after the third officer suicide this month, but family members say the department needs to stop overworking officers and canceling days o

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Three Chicago police officers have taken their own lives so far in July, prompting the department to once again increase support and awareness among the force about mental health services.

CPD Superintendent David Brown said at a Monday press conference that officers' mental health is a top priority for the department, especially when, he said, policing has never been harder.

"This is such a difficult situation for the Chicago Police Department," Brown said.

Brown said he's working to tackle the stigma around seeking help for mental health within the department, both before and during a crisis.

"The stigma of even talking to someone in our profession is a challenge," Brown said. "Many officers find it as a sign of weakness."

RELATED: Suicide prevention: New 988 hotline is the 911 for mental health emergencies

The most recent death came just one day after another CPD officer was found dead in his home by suicide and weeks after Officer Patsy Swank took her own life.

"She was the most beautiful person, just fun loving, compassionate," said her brother Ryan Clancy. "She was always there for everybody else. She took care of the people she loved and went out of her way to protect and serve other people."

Clancy, like other family members of officers who died by suicide, said among the greatest challenges they face in terms of their mental health is overwork.

"It's a crisis," he said. "I think there are places to get help, but when you are overworking these people, there are no days off, long hours; there's not really time to go speak to somebody."

Julie Troglia, wife of the late Ofc. Jeff Troglia who died by suicide in 2021, agreed.

"We have the resources for them, but they can't use them because they are constantly working. Stop canceling days off," she said. "They are pushed to the limit and they are all backed into a corner now."

Troglia also said the stigma of reaching out for help is made worse for officers when they aren't given time to take care of themselves.

The third officer's identity has not yet been released.

"We ask that the city wrap its arms around this sergeant's loved ones as they mourn his loss. Please also take a moment to pray for the men and women of CPD, who are grieving alongside this sergeant's family," the department said in a statement.

"It's very heartbreaking to know that an officer was under so much stress, so depressed, they felt that they're only way out is to take their life," said Jamay Nellum-Fane, a former CPD officer.

Having served 16 years with the Chicago Police Department before retiring in April, Nellum-Fane said the emotional stress of being a police officer has become extreme.

"The days off being canceled, and then we have to be real -- the stress that our officers are under responding to calls -- person with a gun, person shot, domestic battery, child abuse, sexual assault," she said.

She said the stress, in part, led to her retirement.

"I went through that dark period, facing depression, facing PTSD, facing post-traumatic stress. It was just too much. It was over-bearing," Nellum-Fane said.

"We can always do a better job of looking out for our brothers and sisters in trying to pay attention to possible crisis moments that we can intervene," Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said in a statement.

RELATED: Chicago's 22nd Police District hosts first-ever 'wellness fair' to help officers' mental health

Both the FOP president and Nellum-Fane agree more can be done.

"I think that they have to be more creative and actually assign maybe counselors, social workers, whatever the case is, to actual districts," Nellum-Fane said.

In response to a tweet by the Chicago Police Department Sunday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot replied:

"Please know that we hear you & are working tirelessly to ease the mental & physical burden of our police officers."

If you feel suicidal or you're worried about someone you know, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also text the Crisis Text Line by messaging TALK to 741741.For more information, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.