Two Florida deputies left behind their 1-month-old son this week after each took their own lives within days of each other.
“Today, the members of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office carry the burden of a very heavy heart as we share with you the tragic passing of two of our deputies: Deputy Clayton Osteen and Deputy Victoria Pacheco,” St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said. “On New Year’s Eve, shortly before midnight, our agency responded to a call where we learned that Deputy Osteen, who was off duty at the time, attempted to take his own life. On Sunday, January 2, Deputy Osteen’s family made the very difficult decision to remove him from life support.”
“This morning we learned that Deputy Pacheco, who shared a one-month-old son with Deputy Osteen, took her own life in the wake of Deputy Osteen’s death,” he continued. “Words cannot express the tremendous loss we all feel after losing these two members of our Sheriff’s Office family. As sheriff, I saw these two deputies as young, ambitious, and a great compliment to my already amazing group of professionals. To the general public, and sometimes even myself, it’s easy to view law enforcement as superhuman … but let’s not forget that they’re human just like us.”
Mascara said that law enforcement deal with the stress from the day-to-day situations they face, and that they take on the stress of those they serve in their communities.
“While it is impossible for us to fully comprehend the private circumstances leading up to this devastating loss, we pray that this tragedy becomes a catalyst for change, a catalyst to help ease the stigma surrounding mental well-being and normalize the conversation about the challenges so many of us face on a regular basis,” he concluded. “We are not taking media inquiries and ask that you pray for the Osteen and Pacheco families, as well as our Sheriff’s Office family and respect the privacy of those involved during this extremely difficult time.”
The Congressional Research Service said that “the types of stressful work conditions first responders often experience can contribute to the development of new mental health conditions or exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions.”
“Results from one study, for example, found that firefighter and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel—such as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics—experience higher rates of lifetime suicidal ideation and attempts than the general population,” the report said. “Another study found relatively high rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among firefighters. EMTs may also have higher rates of suicide than non-EMTs. Similar results have been found in studies on law enforcement, describing a higher risk for suicide amongst police officers compared to the general population. One white paper found that police and firefighters may be more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free hotline for individuals in crisis or distress or for those looking to help someone else. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.