1 in 3 police officers in Turkey considers suicide, study finds

Three out of every 10 police officers in Turkey have considered suicide, according to a recent study conducted by the Police Union.

The study, involving over 15,000 participants, was prompted by an alarming rise in suicides and increasing reports of workplace harassment, also known as mobbing.

The study included 15 questions about suicides, factors contributing to them, job satisfaction and reasons for choosing to become a police officer, among others.

When asked if they knew a colleague who had attempted or died by suicide, nearly 75 percent of participants answered “Yes.” In another question, 35 percent of officers responded in the affirmative when asked if they had considered suicide themselves.

In the first four months of 2024, 16 police officers died by suicide, averaging one suicide every week.

On the first day of January, a police officer in Ankara died by suicide, but the authorities issued no statement on the incident. A week later, Efe Önsel from the counterterrorism unit in Mersin province killed himself. He is survived by a 1-year-old son. A day later, on January 9, Ömer Kapsal died by suicide in Afyon province. In a final letter to his daughter, Kapsal mentioned workplace bullying.

More recently, on May 6 Şenol Şirin, a police officer in Tekirdağ, died by suicide after fatally shooting his wife and 5-year-old child. Two days earlier, another officer, H.M., 28, also ended his life in Trabzon by shooting himself. The day before that, officer O.U. took his own life in Kayseri, leaving behind a widow and a child.

While Turkey’s overall suicide rate is lower than the global average, police suicides stand out as alarmingly high. The suicide rate among police officers is 3.78 times higher than that of the general population. This places the Turkish National Police among European and global police forces with the highest suicide rates in comparison to their general populations.

The study also sheds light on the responses of police officers to psychological assessments, revealing that only two out of 10 provided realistic answers, suggesting a possible underreporting of mental health struggles within the police.

For factors contributing to suicides, mobbing was identified as the primary factor, with 99 percent of respondents pointing to it. Stressful working conditions ranked second, cited by 98.5 percent of participants.

When asked what causes them the most stress in their jobs, mobbing again topped the list, while economic difficulties were also reported as significant stressors, ranking second.

Reflecting growing dissatisfaction, seven out of 10 officers are considering resigning, and eight out of 10 would leave law enforcement if they had a viable alternative. Furthermore, eight out of 10 officers said they would not recommend a career in law enforcement to their acquaintances.

Despite the uptick in police suicides in recent years, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), previously rejected a parliamentary motion to investigate a rising trend in suicides among police officers.

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