Amid rising nationwide police suicides, Hennepin County Sheriff's Office hires full-time therapist

The numbers of suicides among law enforcement are rising each year nationwide and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is hoping to curb the trend by adding a new position to the department.

Rachael Peterson’s new job is so new, the office space is still mostly empty and she’s still waiting for a permanent sign on the door.

“I’ve had some clients already,” said Peterson. “I had a referral before I even started.”

Peterson is the first, full-time mental health therapist for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. She is available to all employees, but those with a badge are of particular concern.

“We’re killing ourselves at a greater rate than we’re getting killed,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson.

Sheriff Hutchinson says there is a mental health crisis in law enforcement and a high suicide rate that, nationally, is now double the line of duty deaths.

According The Blue Help, a non-profit, there have been 201 law enforcement suicides so far in 2019. The number keeps rising every year.

“I don’t want to get too graphic, but if you see a dead child at a crime scene and go home and play with your own children, if that doesn’t affect you I don’t know what would and nobody’s talking to people about it,” said Sheriff Hutchinson.

Earlier this month, there were two suicides on the same day that impacted two Twin Cities police departments.

“It’s painful,” said Peterson. “It’s painful because I feel it’s avoidable and it makes me angry at times as well. I don’t think we’re doing enough for our officers and cops and deputies.”

Other departments offer assistance, but a full-time clinician is new territory. Sheriff Hutchinson hopes personnel use the new resource and that it gets attention, perhaps inspiring other departments to do the same.

“I’m going to do everything I can do in my power to make sure that my staff and the rest of the staff in the state gets the help they need,” said Hutchinson.