CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department’s rate of suicide is substantially higher than the national average. When it comes to bringing attention to the issue, one man is walking the walk.
Sometimes a problem can seem so overwhelming that it can be tough to take the first step. But for Robert Swiderski Jr., the son of a retire Chicago police officer, it’s not the first step that was hard — it was the 60,000 that came after that.
The 49-year-old father of two is running and walking around City Hall for 28 straight hours to bring attention to the issue of mental health in the police department.
“I’ve been out here for seven hours and I’m currently at just over 30 miles,” Swiderski said.
This week, another Chicago police officer died in an apparent suicide. It was the third CPD suicide this year and at least the 11th since 2018, according to the Sun-Times.
“The Department experienced the heartbreaking loss of one of our police officers to an apparent suicide. As his family, loved ones and fellow CPD officers mourn, we are asking the city to help carry their grief by keeping them in your thoughts. Being a police officer is not an easy job and our officers carry the weight of the world on their shoulders,” Supt. David Brown wrote in a statement.
A 2017 report from the U.S. Justice Department found that CPD’s suicide rate was 60 percent higher than the national average.
“What isn’t talked about are all of the individuals that are dealing with depression, PTSD with mental illness,” Swiderski said.
Swiderski is hoping that by running, he’ll get people talking about the problem and give them the courage to take the first step.
“That’s why I’m here at City Hall. To let our mayor and superintendent know that this really does matter,” Swiderski said. “Mental health really does matter.”
According to the CDC, for every suicide death there is — at least 25 others have attempted it.
If you’re having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, the free National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.