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Boston police join public awareness campaign aimed at preventing suicide

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross pointed to a suicide remembrance and awareness band around his badge.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

It’s the leading cause of death among police officers nationwide, and four times as many Massachusetts residents die from suicide than they do homicide, year after year.

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, the Boston Police Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are launching a public awareness campaign aimed at changing those statistics for those in uniform - and for those they serve.

Officers will be wearing blue bands across their badges and are being issued two wrist bands and a wallet-sized card “livesavers manual” with quick information about how to steer someone towards help in a time of emotional crisis as part of the campaign unfolding during National Suicide Prevention Week.


Inside the department, the prevention campaign will bolster a long-running effort by the department’s peer and family support units to let officers know that reaching out for mental health assistance at any point during their careers will not interfere with their careers.

“All the police officer sees is violence and inhumanity,’’ said Sergeant Mark Freire, commander of the four-officer peer support unit. “We hope that all police officers recognize that it’s okay not to be okay.”

The department has not lost an officer to suicide since 2016 - when two officers, both men, ended their own lives - but the effort to prevent it from happening again that is led by Freire has the strong support of Gross.

“We are keenly aware that police officers sometimes hold things in. That’s not good,’’ Gross said at a City Hall Plaza press conference Monday, adding that his goal is to convince officers to reach out for help. “No one will be deemed as weak and no one will be ostracized.’’

The suicide prevention campaign is the first in the country to send the message into police stations and cruisers that there is help available, and that the help should be sought out, according to Nancy Reno, vice president of the Boston Police Foundation.


But the effort is not aimed solely within the department, sponsors are also determined to combat suicide in Boston and the state as a whole. Each year, four times as many people die from suicide than from homicide in Massachusetts, according to the National Society for Prevention of Suicide.

By providing police with resources they can quickly access, the hope is that this will allow police to steer troubled individuals towards help, officials said.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.