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Predicting Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors Among Public Safety Officers: Implications of Sleep Disturbance, Emotional Support, and Stigma

NCJ Number
Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology Volume: Online Pages: January 2024
Date Published
January 2024

This paper reports on a research study investigating the role of sleep disturbances, social support, and law enforcement agency stigma, on suicide risk among public safety personnel.


The present work explored the independent and joint consequences of multiple factors that prior work indicated were central to suicide risk among a sample of public safety personnel. Of key interest relevant to the experience of suicidal thoughts and behaviors were the roles of sleep disturbance, social support, and agency stigma discouraging discussion of mental health. These risk factors and relevant demographic variables were measured in a nationally representative sample of law enforcement and correctional officers at time (1). Their suicidal thoughts and behaviors were assessed one year later, at time (2). Officers who reported sleep disturbances at time (1) were more likely to report suicidal thoughts and behaviors at time (2). Mediation analyses indicated that the effect of sleep on the officers’ suicidal responses was partially accounted for by their lower social support. For officers, sleep disturbances may contribute to loneliness and interfere with social relationships, which has negative mental health consequences. However, social support was only a partial mediator suggesting that sleep disturbances have additional influences on suicidal responses for officers beyond their impact on social support. The perceived stigma from the agency regarding the discussion of psychological problems was also an independent predictor of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The stigma that these officers perceived likely exasperated the suicidal reactions because it may have interfered with their tendency to seek help and benefit from any ongoing treatment. The implications of these findings for treatment and future research building on the present work are discussed. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2024