Slaying the Stigma
I just want to be real with you. I understand why cops are killing themselves. I understand because I have been all the way to the end of that dark, desolate road. The only difference, the only saving grace, the only thing that saved me in that moment—was a fellow officer who gave me a mission of hope.
The voices whispered into my thoughts, “just end it all…this life…there’s no point..there is no hope…with all the darkness you have seen…with the wretch of a person you have become..there is no hope for you.”
Lies. But I almost believed them. And in that moment, I received a sneak preview of Hell itself. Though I had begun to refuse to acknowledge the existence of a higher power, in my heart I still clung to a belief in a Creator..and Heaven…and Hell.
A grizzly, gruff Lieutenant in my department recognized my despair and heard my plea for help one day. I was in the midst of an internal investigation and I was convinced my career was over, my wife would leave me, and my daughter would be taken from me.
Drowning in alcohol abuse, depression, rage, and darkness, I could see no hope—no way out. I asked my Lieutenant, “How am I supposed to deal with this? I don’t know what to do.” I was cautious not to let him see how much I was hurting inside—that I was crying out for help. I didn’t want him to know the true pain in my heart, for I was so ashamed that I wasn’t tough like him.
Before I knew it, my Lieutenant had made a call to our department’s police psychologist and had given my name and number over to the “Cop Doc.” Now, I felt like I had a directive from my leader—Go get help.
Soon, I had made my first appointment with the Cop Doc. I found myself sitting in a rickety chair in a small office in an old townhouse that had been converted for commercial use. The soft noise from a noise making machine drowned any conversation in the tiny office from leaking through the paper thin hollow door. Through heavy tears, I poured out my soul to this man who was supposed to be the enemy…this supposed “quack;” the police psychologist.
The Cop Doc let me finish, he listened and he acknowledged my pain. He did not try to minimize it, and he did not brush it off or tell me to “tough it out, suck it up.” The Cop Doc was the perfect balance of reality, compassion, and understanding. He walked with me through the darkness and he pulled me out of the bottom of the deepest, darkest pit I have ever been in. Slowly, I put my armor back on.
In the weeks that followed, the Cop Doc allowed me to text him directly and treated me as a friend and not a patient. He never wrote anything down and he assured me that all we discussed was completely confidential. He was my only friend at a time when I had none.
Soon afterwards, I began attending church and committed my life to God. But I kept going to see the Cop Doc; I knew he could help me. For the first time in so, so long, I felt hope. To this day, I still have a relationship with my Cop Doc, and I am thankful for his friendship and for the simple fact that he will always stand by my side.
Today, I am a survivor. My life is back on track, and I’m still a cop. I love my job and I love helping people and making a difference every day. I still face the darkness and the impossibilities of this job, but the new light shining from within me will never be extinguished. My fellow brothers and sisters, we MUST DESTROY the STIGMA. We are NOT weak if we ask for help. We are all human and we are all broken.
Your badge is a shield, but it will not shield you from the trauma and the darkness we face. We must seek help when we are hurting, and we must surround ourselves with a support network that will always uplift us and extend a lifeline of hope when we find ourselves in troubled waters. Seeking help is the only weapon we have against the enemy of suicide.
Read the powerful true story of how my life was changed forever in my award winning book, Break Every Chain: A Police Officer’s Battle with Alcoholism, Depression, and Devastating Loss, and the True Story of How God Changed His Life Forever. Available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Books-A-Million, Walmart, Ebay, and iTunes. For more information, visit https://JonathanHickory.com
Jonathan Hickory is a Master Police Officer in Charlottesville, Virginia. In his 15 plus years of police experience, Jonathan has mentored and instructed other officers in police driving methods and as a Field Training Officer. Jonathan spent seven years investigating the reconstruction of fatal vehicle crash sites and three years as a motorcycle officer. Jonathan proudly serves as a member of the Police Department's Peer Support Team providing Critical Incident Stress Management support to fellow officers. He also leads a Life Safety team with The Point Church in Charlottesville and the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers. Jonathan has been married to his wife Stacy for over 14 years and has two children.