SUICIDE rates among police officers in France have hit record levels leading to serious concerns about the mental and emotional health of people whose duty is to serve and protect the population.
39 police officers have committed suicide since January this year and a further two deaths are suspected suicides.
The majority of those who committed suicide over the course of the past 11 months lived in the Paris region, where some 36,000 police officers are based. Out of the 10 police officers who committed suicide in the last two months, seven were based in Paris.
Radio station France Bleu, which reported on the figures, added that male police officers are more likely to take their own lives than their female counterparts: out of the 39 law enforcement officers who died this year, only three were women.
The suicide risk among police officers in France is “at least three times higher” than the national average, France Bleu said, adding that while most people committed suicide for “personal reasons,” an increasing number of deaths were being linked to work-related stress, especially among France’s police force.
Police trade unions believe that the anti-social nature of the job as well as the increased workloads and stress levels in part triggered by the wave of extremist violence in France have gnawed away at police officers’ mental wellbeing.
“Most police officers work five weekends out of six, when in fact they should be getting a weekend off every other week,” Louis-Guy Dubois, a member of Police Force Ouvrière trade union, told France Bleu.
According to Mr Dubois, the growing threat from Islamist terrorism has put French police under severe strain: “Giving officers more time off is an administrative headache, especially now that they are needed to help patrol the streets and prevent attacks. The number of officers working overtime (since the wave of attacks) has exploded. Police are under unprecedented pressure.”
Some 1,133 police officers have committed suicide in France in the last 25 years. Around 50 per cent killed themselves using their service weapon, according to France Bleu.