EDITORS NOTE: This time of year can be tough for cops and other emergency responders just like everyone in society. It’s hard to think about suicides, but maybe this is the best time for us to look after our health as well as that of our peers. Julie Zielinski is a Law Enforcement Survival Institute faculty member who lost her Sheriff’s Deputy son to a completed suicide. Julie now writes and teaches about suicide prevention for law enforcement professionals. As the new edition of her book Matt’s Last Call: Surviving Our Protectors is released she reflects upon her journey. Read to the end of the article to find our free CopsAlive suicide prevention resources that you can activate in your agency TODAY!
My Journey 2017
On June 1, 2005, my 27 year old son, Matthew Zielinski, took his life due to a failed relationship. At the time he was a Chelan County Sheriff Deputy in Washington State, who had achieved this dream job eleven months earlier. Obviously, it was devastating to my family and I but more about my journey later.
This tragic event has birthed in me a passion to learn everything I can about suicide prevention in law enforcement. Through research, attending conferences, and contact with experts in the field it appears that deaths by suicide in law enforcement are 2-3 times greater than line of duty deaths (LOD) nationwide. This is astounding yet little is being done by law enforcement agencies to spend more time with mental health issues including suicide prevention. In fact, cover-up is common.
It is essential that… both the academies and local law enforcement departments make suicide prevention training a higher priority. Every police officer/deputy must be made aware of agencies such as Safe Call Now which allows the officer to call in anonymously for help.
A “buddy-system” within the department may also give a heads up if an officer seems to be going off the rails. Overall, law enforcement culture may need to change. Instead of considering mental health issues (along with suicidal symptoms) a sign of weakness to be ignored or ridiculed, an “open door” policy coupled with compassion might serve the officer better. Saving a job–or a life–could be the result!
As a surviving mother of a sheriff deputy son who took his life, I have made suicide prevention my ministry. I am out to save lives; in particular, Law Enforcement and all First Responders. Matthew wanted to be a Sheriff Deputy to help others. Now it is my turn to continue his legacy.
I dislike the word suicide and the stigma that follows. Seven years after Matthew’s death I decided it was time to do something about it. With help from a lifelong friend who became my editor, and God’s guidance I decided to write Matt’s Last Call: Surviving Our Protectors.” I researched and asked many questions to try to get to the bottom of why so many either attempt or complete suicide. Many conferences were attended just so I could learn more about law enforcement.
Matthew’s death deeply affected Chelan County Sheriff’s Office. They spoke so highly of him, not knowing there was an issue that would eventually take his life. In the process, I have taken it upon myself to ask questions and be more aware of those first responders and what they may be going through. As a result, I have been appointed Suicide Liaison for Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) and the Washington State Representative of the National Police Suicide Foundation.
Skipping ahead to 2017, I decided I wasn’t finished. So again I contacted my friend and she agreed to help with the Second Edition of Matt’s last Call: Surviving Our Protectors. We added a new chapter Twelve Years Later, some amazing new resources, pictures, and a new cover created by my 15-year-old granddaughter, Lizzy McKnight.
It’s a lonely road when you are mourning the loss of a son. I have received looks of pity, rude words and more. It is my hope that one day no one will have to walk in my shoes but until then we all need to keep working and watching for those who have become despondent over the events of their lives. Providing hope and the tools to overcome may turn a potential victim into a victor.
Through reading Matt’s Last Call: Surviving Our Protectors (Second Edition) my hope is that people understand and actively engage in suicide prevention within their law enforcement agencies. The need is great but those who are trained to help are few.
STAY SAFE – I CARE
Julie tells us that “I am the only person who has my book plus one bookstore in Wenatchee Washington State. You can have people contact me directly by email. Please have them mention the book. Don’t want any scams. I need to figure out what to do but for now that’s what I will be doing. Amazon does NOT have my book.
Julie Zielinski is an author and a speaker.
You can order a copy of Julie’s book by emailing her directly CLICK HERE
Please mention the book in the subject line of your email.
LEARN MORE ABOUT JULIE HERE: https://mattcutshort.blogspot.com/ Then connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
CopsAlive.com believes in and promotes prevention strategies and resilience building tactics to mitigate the toxic nature of a career in law enforcement. Visit our CopsAlive Suicide Prevention page at https://www.copsalive.org/suicideprevention/ where you can create your own police suicide prevention training program in just 3 Easy Steps! This page has free links to download a short training video, discussion guides and other helpful resources to get your program started today.
For more useful information and resources use the Resources tab at the top of the CopsAlive.com website.
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Our “Armor Your Self™: How to Survive a Career in Law Enforcement” on-site training program is an eight hour, hands-on, “How to” seminar based upon John Marx’ book of the same name. This seminar helps police officers and other law enforcement professionals armor themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to build Tactical Resilience™ and survive their careers in police work. To learn more CLICK HERE. To learn about and buy the book CLICK HERE.
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