SUICIDE PREVENTION KEYNOTE * MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER * LEADERSHIP
Police suicide is the number one killer of law enforcement officers in the US. In 2019 alone, 228 officers took their own lives.
Retired SGT Mark DiBona knows the situation all too well. He came close to taking his own life twice during his 33-year law enforcement career. His diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety nearly ended his career. On his road to recovery, Mark was and is still very open about the struggles he encountered and the lack of support he received.
Mark shares how he personally found strength to step away from the precipice and what the rest of us can do to help.
For Mark, it really began when he volunteered to travel to New York following the 9/11 attacks in order to assist with recovery efforts. The smell of death and burning flesh was one he could never get out of his head. A short time after returning to Florida, he responded to a crash with a vehicle fully engulfed and a person still inside. He carries a burden of guilt from that day, including recurring nightmares.
All too often, a request for assistance is worsened by the common response “toughen up – it’s part of the job.” Officers may be reticent to seek help because of the stigma and fear of being blackballed by fellow officers and/or administrators. Mark shares the importance of recognition and action of the request for assistance among agency leadership, and policies and support that make officers feel more comfortable seeking help.
The fact that many officers are now patrolling alone may be aggravating the situation. Single officer patrol eliminates the natural peer support opportunity for officers to share and discuss their concerns with someone who understands.
Mark has assisted several First Responders and others to get assistance for their mental health issues. In his presentations, Mark delivers a powerful message “It’s okay not to be okay.” He speaks about wellness, leadership, motivation, how your personal life issues can affect your career, how he obtained strength to move on and his Law Enforcement career, the good times and bad times. He uses humor and his outgoing personality throughout his presentations.
Mark DiBona is a retired Law Enforcement Officer of 33 years, as a Patrol Sergeant and Police Academy Instructor. He is a Board Member and Public Information Officer with Blue H.E.L.P., a non-profit organization that assists Law Enforcement Officers and their families with mental health issues, suicide prevention and education.
Mark DiBona, LEO (Ret)
Police Officer Shares How He Almost Committed Suicide
Preview: Suicide Prevention: The Amazing Journey of SGT Mark DiBona - Part 1
Preview: Suicide Prevention: The Amazing Journey of SGT Mark DiBona - Part 2
President of the Southeastern Homicide Investigators Association (SEHIA)
Talking about mental health is a sensitive topic. Talking about your own mental health is a step harder. Being able to talk about your own mental health in front of a group of your peers has got to be the hardest step of them all. Mark DiBona took that first difficult step and reached out for help years ago. And because he did, he is here with us today. Mark eventually found healing in helping others.
I have seen Mark speak numerous times about law enforcement mental health issues. Mark has been a board member with the Southeastern Homicide Investigators Association (SEHIA) since 2016 and attends our conference every year. I have seen Mark’s presentation several times and have witnessed first-hand the impact it has had on others. You can hear a pin drop in that room as everyone wants to hear his story.
I have seen people laugh at Mark’s attempt to create humor from sharing some of the worst times in his life and I have seen people cry. Most importantly, I have seen numerous people approach Mark after his presentation. Some of them just wanted to tell him how courageous he was to stand up there and tell his story to complete strangers. Some of them wanted to tell him that they were sorry that he went through what he had gone through but were glad that he reached out for help. Some of them were reaching out to Mark because they too needed help and saw Mark as someone they could relate to.
To stand in front of a crowd, any crowd, but especially a crowd of other police officers and your peers, which are often your biggest critics, and be able to open up and share the deepest parts of your soul, says a lot about ones’ character. I ask Mark at the end of every conference how many people approached him for help throughout that week. No matter what the number is, Mark always says, “As long as one person reached out to me, it was worth getting up there.” What else is there to say after that?
RN, MS, APSO, Military Veteran and
Connecticut State Police SGT (Ret)
Mark has over 33 years of experience in law enforcement and vast experience on how to reach all levels of officers with quality education. He possesses the unique experience of teaching from his own personal story of how mental illness has affected him and he is able to relate to any audience about that experience.
Mark has the highest integrity and devotion to his fellow officers in their times of personal need. He is a true believer of the importance of educating officers in their own personal need for good Mental and Physical Wellness. What Mark is doing to educate officers is a matter of life and death. He is a very unique person that has survived his own issues of mental illness and has continued to teach others in law enforcement what they have to do to help themselves. What he teaches is not an easy subject matter: Mental Illness, Suicide, Anxiety, Depression and PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injury).
I base the above statements on my own 50 years of experience in educating law enforcement officers and first responders and my 10 years of being associated with Mark as the former Chairman of Badge of Life.