Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams climbed the steps of City Hall on Friday flanked by an unlikely entourage of yoga gurus, wellness experts, and police union honchos to demand meditation classes for New York’s Finest amid a rash of suicides.
“The stress and trauma that our police officers face on a daily basis, where they are frequently forced to make life-or-death decisions, are all too familiar,” said Adams, who served as a city police officer for 22 years, retiring with the rank of captain. “Just as we teach police officers how to use a weapon, we should be teaching them how to use mindfulness to manage stress.”
Adams hosted his June 12 press conference after firing off letters to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill urging them to institute semi-annual meditation courses, arguing that eastern mindfulness techniques aren’t a bunch of hippy-dippy nonsense, but a proven method of providing psychological benefits that translate to happy, high-performing cops.
“Secular meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction are evidence-based practices that have been scientifically proven to decrease anxiety, depression, hostility, and stress, while increasing attention and focus, ethical decision-making, and even happiness scores,” wrote Adams.
This year, six city cops have taken their own lives, including veteran officers Joe Calabrese and Steven Silks, who shot themselves one day after the other in June.
And the beep — a noted fitness fanatic, who meditates twice each day — said he hopes Brooklyn’s boys in blue won’t let their masculinity stand in the way of his flower-power healing routine, saying there’s nothing manly about allowing your mental health to deteriorate.
“Policing is a macho occupation,” he said. “Meditation and self-help is considered almost a sissy response.”
The Patrolmen’s Benefit Association — a labor union representing officers within the NYPD — threw its support behind Adam’s call for mindfulness training, with President Patrick Lynch claiming it’s never been harder to be a cop and never more important to support first responders.
“The job of a New York City police officer has always been a stressful one, but policing today is more mentally and emotionally taxing than ever before,” said Lynch.
The city has not been idle amid the tragedies, and Adam’s zen-like advocacy comes on the heels of a newly formed mental health task force, which will provide peer counseling at police precinct citywide, as well as training for commanding officers on how to recognize mental health problems among officers.
The beep has been on something of an eastern wellness kick recently, and early this week suggested the city offer prisoners at the Brooklyn House of Detention yoga classes amid a public review process for a mayoral scheme to expand the Boerum Hill holding facility.
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273–8255; and take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.