BOSTON (CBS) — For years, Janice McCarthy says she felt like she was just treading water after her husband, Massachusetts State Police Captain Paul McCarthy, took his own life.
McCarthy died in 2006, the same day as their daughter’s 14th birthday. Janice says he had been suffering for more than a decade.
“He was run over by a bus while he was working and he was trapped inside the car for 45 minutes. And from what we learned later that was the ideology of his post-traumatic stress,” McCarthy says.
Audrey fondly remembers her baby brother Richie, a Boston police officer.
“He was fabulous. He loved the job, he loved helping people,” says Audrey.
A retired Boston cop herself, she says the pain of his suicide last March is still too raw for her to share her last name or his.
“We found him Easter Sunday. He hadn’t eaten in a week. He hadn’t bathed. Richie got lost before then,” Audrey recalls, fighting back tears.
Both women are part of a heart-wrenching club they never wanted to be a part of, survivors of law enforcement suicide. It is a group, they say, is growing.
In the US today, more officers die by suicide than in the line of duty.
Officers are at a heightened risk for suicide, due to “exposure to violence, suicide, or other job-related stressors; depression, anxiety, or other mental illness; substance abuse; domestic abuse; access to means to kill oneself (e.g., firearms); and poor physical health,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“And where is the outrage?” McCarthy asks.
Now, McCarthy and Audrey are supporting the efforts of HonorThem.Net, a website launched by Worcester woman and police spouse, Karen Solomon. The site is a memorial space for officers who died from suicide.
“There’s a saying in law enforcement, it’s not how they died that mattered, it’s how they lived. So that’s what we truly believe,” Solomon says.
HonorThem.Net provides resources for grieving families and for officers suffering from anxiety, depression, and mental illness.
Only a few of the officer profiles on the site have pictures, a clear sign of the stigma of suicide, says Solomon.
McCarthy hopes it will be a good starting point to guide families out of the darkness of despair and save lives.
“There should not be silence. There should be people talking to his children about him and there really isn’t and that hurts me,” McCarthy says, describing the isolation after her own husband’s death.
She has also helped to draft legislation requiring 20 hours of mandatory suicide prevention training for Massachusetts officers.
Audrey hopes that the site will save lives.
“You gotta care that we’re losing them. You have to. Because love is the only way that you’re going to bring them to the treatment they need,” she says.
Solomon and others will be a part of a suicide prevention conference, October 9 and 10, at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.
Visit the website for more information.