'Look for help.' Fairfield University student raises awareness of law enforcement suicides
A Fairfield University student who lost her stepfather, a police sergeant, to suicide is raising awareness of the mental health struggles law enforcement officers face.
Kiersten Nicolosi's stepfather died by suicide in 2021. She said her family was unaware he'd been battling depression.
"He kept that battle to himself," Nicolosi said. "He was always smiling, always goofy."
Nicolosi was a freshman when her stepdad died. Now a senior, she's since shared his story at campus events, including the university's annual Out of the Darkness walk.
"To let people know people are always there to talk to you," Nicolosi said.
Nicolosi recently delivered doughnuts to the Fairfield Police Department. She wrote on the box, "You are never too strong to struggle. You are never too tough for help."
"They're constantly talking with people and dealing with really hard things," Nicolosi explained. "But I think it takes a lot to realize you yourself can accept help too."
When police read the message on the box, they invited her to the station to thank her. She was given a quilt in memory of her stepdad.
"She's come in and kind of won over our hearts with the message how important it is for suicide prevention," Lt. Edward Nook said.
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, more law enforcement officers die by suicide than in the line of duty each year. Blue H.E.L.P. data shows 182 police officers across the U.S. died by suicide in 2020. The number of suicides was 165 in 2021 and 171 last year. There have been 66 suicides so far this year.
"Kind of an ugly reality that we're faced with," Nook said. "We at Fairfield PD work hard at that. We have a peer program. We're in tune to that. But we always can do better."
"Look for help, because we still need you here, we still want you here," Nicolosi added. "Especially doing the work law enforcement officers do, we really need pillars of strength like that in the community. So making sure they're looking out for themselves as they're looking out for other people."