X-Frame-Options: DENY

SOURCE: chicagotribune.com

This is to the brave souls who keep us safe.

In the wake of news of another police officer taking his own life, I write this with the heaviest heart and with an urgent plea:

Stay. We need you.

If you are feeling alone and unsure, if you can’t feel the ground beneath your feet or see any light in the darkness, know that you are loved and important in this world.

As a licensed clinical social worker who works regularly with police officers, I know you are tired. You may feel ignored and marginalized, and that isolation can be suffocating, but you are a vital member of the community and of your family.

You don’t feel it because too often we put the burden on you to reach out to ask for help, even when the thought of simply getting out of bed is overwhelming to you. By putting the burden of asking for help on you, we fail you. For that we are terribly sorry. We are here, though, and we are multitudes. We are your family and friends, your colleagues in the department, and the residents whom you serve so well. We honor you and pray for you and support you. We must do all of those things more fiercely and more passionately so that you cannot avoid seeing it.

You are not broken. You are not damaged. You are not a burden.

You are whole and surrounded by thousands today and everyday. You are NOT alone. It is hard to see this when you are in the depths of despair when the pain is overwhelming.

You are not alone in your suffering. You are surrounded by those in the department facing the same pain. Working together we must help all of you, and make asking for help not just easier but encouraged and expected.

Getting better does take work, which sounds overwhelming, I know, when you are working so hard just to maintain the status quo, but know that it is worth it.

Stay. We need you here to give us a chance to introduce you to what feeling better looks like, how wellness and recovery can transform your future. Many of you have reached out for help before and you were not met with the support you needed. You deserve better. Let us help you get there.

You are our friend, family, partner, community. And we are yours. We will help you. When you don’t know where to turn, who can help, we at NAMI Chicago have your back. It is our privilege. You do not have to shoulder this burden alone.

Stay. We need you. Your community needs you.

You can reach us at 833-NAMI-CHI (833-626-4244).

Chicago Police Department Employee Assistance Program, 312-743-0378

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Alexa James, a licensed clinical social worker, is the executive director of NAMI Chicago, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Join the discussion on Twitter @Trib_Ed_Board and on Facebook.

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor by email: letters@chicagotribune.com