U.S. Border Patrol agency sees spike in suicide rate.

After a bad day on the job as a Border…

After a bad day on the job as a Border Patrol agent, Eddie DeLaCruz went home and began discussing with his wife how to celebrate her upcoming birthday. Then he casually pressed his government-issued handgun under his chin and pulled the trigger.

“It was the ugliest sound I ever heard in my life,” his widow, Toni DeLaCruz, recalled of that day last November. “He just collapsed.”
A month later, one of DeLaCruz’s colleagues at the Fort Hancock border post put a bullet through his head, too.

Suicides including these have set off alarm bells throughout the agency responsible for policing the nation’s borders. After nearly four years without a single suicide in their ranks, border agents are killing themselves in greater numbers. Records obtained by The Associated Press show that at least 15 agents have taken their own lives since February 2008 — the largest spike in suicides the agency has seen in at least 20 years.

It’s unclear exactly why the men ended their lives. Few of them left notes. And the Border Patrol seems somewhat at odds with itself over the issue.

Federal officials insist the deaths have nothing to do with the agency, which has doubled in size since 2004, or the increasingly volatile U.S.-Mexico border. But administrators have quietly undertaken urgent suicide-prevention initiatives, including special training for supervisors, videos about warning signs and educational programs for 22,000 agents nationwide.

“It’s a microcosm of life,” said Christine Gaugler, head of human resources for Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol. “There’s no uptick. It has nothing to do with our hiring. We are just responding to the suicides that have occurred.”

Source: Paul J. Weber for AP News.

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