After a suicide crisis hit SAPD, the department created a unit to proactively help

Eight officers died by suicide in a 1.5 year span, according to SAPD

SAN ANTONIO – Whether it’s a fatal car accident, murder, or crime against a child -- San Antonio police officers are among the first on the scene.

They bear witness to the worst days of people’s lives, which can be tough to process.

San Antonio police Sgt. Tina Baron said besides reaching out to mentors, there wasn’t much peer support when she joined 24 years ago.

“[When] we had a call that was a critical incident, and it’s just not really sitting well with me, and I need to kind of take a minute to sit back and think about it or process it before I go to the next call -- we just didn’t do that,” she said.

The department added peer resources in 2011.

A few years later, it faced a suicide crisis.

“It impacted a lot of us in a lot of different ways, and we lost some guys in numbers that we just had never seen before,” said Baron.

In 2021, SAPD said two active duty officers took their own lives.

In 2022, four active duty officers and two retired officers died by suicide.

“We got to a point where we had to do something different,” said Baron.

Soon after, SAPD created the Wellness Unit to help proactively connect officers with mental health resources.

The unit includes peer resources, chaplains, and dedicated wellness officers, like Gabriel Mendoza.

“Sometimes you’ll get individuals that are a little bit more emotional than others,” Mendoza said. “Some that are a little bit more disengaged.”

To help officers open up, Mendoza said he has to be vulnerable too.

“I’ve had those bad days,” he said. “I’ve had those dark times and and I think that a lot of us experienced them. And a lot of us don’t talk about our story.”

Sgt. Baron said that being there for officers who might need help prepares them to better serve the community.

“To give our best when we’re out in the community, it’s important for us within ourselves to give each other our best,” she said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or thoughts of suicide, call 988 or text TALK to 741-741.

You can also reach out to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) or the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) at 210-223-7233 (SAFE) or 800-316-9241. You can also text NAMI to 741-741.

About the Authors

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

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