Former police suicide counselor talks about newest cop suicide (Opinion)
Before Eric Potts became a music and talk show host on New Jersey 101.5, he spent 25 years in New Jersey law enforcement, which included detective and police suicide counselor.
Last January, Potts came on my show to talk about the suicide of Roselle Park Police Officer Edward Nortrup, who shot himself in the head after his vehicle struck two parked cars. It was during that interview that Potts revealed his own contemplation with taking his own life. Today, he speaks on the tragic death of Trenton police officer Daniel Pagnotta.
"It's unfortunate that it takes another police suicide to get people to notice and speak out about police suicide," Potts told me in a text exchange. "It is a tragedy that plays out far too often in the ranks of law enforcement."
Also from our text exchange:
"While it's good that there are some programs in place, we are clearly not doing enough and everyone from political leaders to police administrators to the rank and file of the police officers need to recognize it."
"Training must be mandatory in departments to recognize suicide ideation and how to deal with the crisis immediately and not wait to see if things get better."
When Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law stating each officer will go through in-service training on suicide prevention once every five years, I asked Potts what would make an officer take his own life?
"It's not only the stress from the job but the stress at home," he said. "The average police officer that commits suicide has been on the job for about 16 years. Things are different in the academy now but for the older officers, what happens is you're trained to go out there and help people and do the job but you're not trained how to help yourself. It's always been a stigma to show any weakness in an alpha male personality dominated job. That stigma has since changed."
Potts had been advocating for the mandatory training since the '90s, when he almost took his own life.
"There was somebody who was listening. I had all the suicidal signs, and (they) heard me say 'What's the point of going on anymore? I should just end it.' They got the ball rolling and I was forced to go into counseling." Potts would go onto become a counselor himself.
Asked what he would say to a fellow police brother contemplating taking his own life Potts simply replied, "Hang on for one more minute and talk to someone."
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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