Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that Americans "have a moral obligation" to help members of law enforcement with mental health issues, CBS News reports.
Barr spoke at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Miami, a gathering that focused on the safety and wellness of law enforcement officers.
"Officers are seeing the worst side of society," Barr said. "What they are seeing today is worse than ever, and they are seeing it much more often. Police officers, as you know, are at higher risk of suicide than any other profession."
He noted the suicide rate among officers and firefighters is about 40% higher than the national average, and that 228 current and former police officers committed suicide in 2019, an increase of 44% from the year before.
"Not only is that higher than the number of line-of-duty deaths, it reflects a steady increase in officer suicides over the past several years," Barr said. "These are staggering statistics, and a lot more has to be done. Our men and women who wear the badge are some of the country's strongest and bravest people, and like the rest of us, there are times in their lives when they need support."
The attorney general also reflected on his own experience resisting help when his daughter, Meg, was diagnosed with cancer and later hospitalized.
"We went up to Boston for treatment," Barr said. "And in addition to the various priests I had hanging around, the hospital assigned a social worker to us, and she came into the room and said, 'Hi, I'm your social worker,' and my immediate impulse was, 'Hey, you know, we're a strong family, we don't need a social worker.'
"She was one of the greatest things that happened to us during this six-month period we were up in Boston," he added. "We've become very close friends, our family and her, and she was just a godsend. So, I understand the instinct to say, 'We don't need the help,' but that's one of the things that I think we have to work on overcoming in the law enforcement community to address this problem."
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