Chicago cops avoid seeking mental health treatment to keep their jobs

In news healthcare updates, Chicago officers whose Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) cards get revoked as a result of an inpatient stay at a mental health facility risk being pulled out of street patrol and placed on desk duty.

The consequences can be devastating. Stripped off their identify, many already emotionally distressed cops end up committing suicide. Illinois recently got the highest score in the nation for mental health parity laws, but cops in Chicago are more afraid than ever to seek psychological counseling.

According to a new law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August, if officers are admitted to a mental health facility, they could have their Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) cards revoked. Chicago and other police departments require their patrol officers to possess FOID cards, but the new legislation prohibits them from firing officers who lose their cards for undergoing mental health treatment, in a positive step for Illinois healthcare news.

As a result, these cops end up on desk duty, which only aggravates their mental issues and can trigger suicidal thoughts. “You’re essentially stripping an officer’s identity. To rip that away from somebody is gut-wrenching,” said Brian Warner, a former Chicago police officer and former chairman of the Chicago Police Survivors group.

Health advocates say FOID cards are not the best way to determine whether an officer is mentally fit for duty or not. Instead, police departments should have psychologists equipped to help with post-traumatic stress.

Suicide rates are on the rise among Chicago Police department (CPD) officers: four cases in the last four months alone. The last cop to take his life is 43 year-old off-duty detective.

The problem is nationally prevalent. In the U.S., more first responders die by suicide than killed on the job, according to a study from the Ruderman Family Foundation. Last year, 243 police officers and firefighters died by suicide in the United States versus 222 killed in the line of duty. Untreated mental illness, the authors explained, can also lead to poor physical health and impaired decision-making.

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