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Bill de Blasio cites his father’s death in letter to NYPD struggling with spate of suicides

Bill de Blasio sent a letter to NYPD cops referenced his own father’s death by suicide as the force reels after two of its officers took their own lives in the space of two days.

The New York City mayor, 58, told them that ‘help is always here’ – just days after a $1 billion mental health program spearheaded by his wife Chirlane pulled its support from a staff mental health training program.   

ThriveNYC – which has been given hundreds of thousands of dollars by the city – ditched its support after learning that pro-police group Blue Lives Matter was involved, the New York Post.

The mayor has previously spoken about how his father, Warren Wilhelm, a veteran who lost part of his left leg in World War II, descended into alcoholism and killed himself when de Blasio was 18.

In his letter to 30,000 rank and file cops he wrote: ‘I want to tell you about him today in the hopes that it might help you or someone you care about.’

Bill de Blasio, (pictured), referenced his own father’s death by suicide in a letter to the NYPD which is reeling after two of its officers took their own lives in the space of two days

De Blasio's father Warren Wilhelm, (above), a veteran who lost part of his left leg in World War II, descended into alcoholism and killed himself when de Blasio was 18. He is pictured when he served in the US Army

De Blasio’s father Warren Wilhelm, (above), a veteran who lost part of his left leg in World War II, descended into alcoholism and killed himself when de Blasio was 18. He is pictured when he served in the US Army 

 In his letter, de Blasio urged officers to seek help if they are struggling. He added: ‘No matter how strong or tough you are, or how difficult it may be to accept, you always deserve help when you need it. The City of New York supports you.’

‘I say from experience, There is strength in asking for help – in doing the right thing for you and your family.’

But his words didn’t convince his critics that enough was being done.   

Staten Island Republican Joe Borelli said: ‘The mayor is saying the right words, but for Thrive to pull support at the last minute for an event because it’s sponsored by a pro-police organization whose name they don’t like shows that they are not willing to have hard conversations.’

Staten Island congressman Max Rose also criticized de Blasio for leaving New York out of a veteran suicide prevention program, accusing the mayor of ‘dropping the ball’ on the subject.

The ‘Mayor’s Challenge’ initiative from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs helps cities expand suicide prevention services for veterans.

‘When it comes to veteran suicide, he’s MIA,’ Rose told The New York Daily News.

Queens councilman Donovan Richards described difficulties faced by NYPD as a ‘crisis’ on Wednesday.

‘We have to come together as a city to do everything we can to provide more services for officers who don’t want to jeopardize their career,’ he wrote in a tweet. 

The New York City Mayor, 58, shared his experience of his father’s suicide in a letter to all members of the force on Wednesday and told them that 'help is always here'

The New York City Mayor, 58, shared his experience of his father’s suicide in a letter to all members of the force on Wednesday and told them that ‘help is always here’

De Blasio’s father, Warren Wilhelm,  served in WWII and fought in battles across the Pacific, including one of the war’s most horrific, the Battle of Okinawa, where 12,500 American soldiers died over 82 days. 

He survived but lost half of his leg to an enemy grenade as he led a patrol at the end of the battle. 

De Blasio wrote in his letter: ‘I watched as things got worse and worse – as he fell into a place emotionally that none of us could reach. ‘I was too young to understand, but he was dealing with depression, alcoholism, and PTSD.’ 

In 1979, Wilhelm, 61, was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a parked car outside the Rocky River Motel in New Milford, Connecticut, according to the New York Post. 

De Blasio took his mother’s family name in adulthood because, he said, his father was 'largely absent from his life.' Pictured above are Maria de Blasio and her then husband Warren Wilhelm

De Blasio took his mother’s family name in adulthood because, he said, his father was ‘largely absent from his life.’ Pictured above are Maria de Blasio and her then husband Warren Wilhelm

De Blasio urged officers to seek help if they are struggling, saying: 'There is no feeling worse than wanting to help someone and not knowing how'

De Blasio urged officers to seek help if they are struggling, saying: ‘There is no feeling worse than wanting to help someone and not knowing how’

He lived in New Haven after divorcing de Blasio’s mother, Maria, in Massachusetts ten years earlier.  

He was suffering from late-stage terminal lung cancer at the time of his death, it has been widely reported.

In an interview with The New York Times in 2013, de Blasio claimed that seeing his father suffering made him question whether he could bring up his own family.

He told the publication: ‘My father was a picture of courage in terms of his war service and strength, and yet in his decline, I learned primarily negative lessons. I learned what not to do.

‘I have a real respect, and a real anger and sadness at the same time,’ Mr. de Blasio said. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do the math on exactly what it all means.’  

 ‘Few things are harder than seeking help,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘It’s an act of courage. I watched this struggle in my own family growing up—the difference today is that there is help. Reach out for yourself or a loved one in need.’

De Blasio earlier this week described news of the latest death of an NYPD officer  as 'heartbreaking.'

De Blasio earlier this week described news of the latest death of an NYPD officer  as ‘heartbreaking.’ 

The death of the officer on Wednesday marks the ninth member of NYPD to end their lives by suicide since January 2019 and the seventh since June.

The death of the officer on Wednesday marks the ninth member of NYPD to end their lives by suicide since January 2019 and the seventh since June.

De Blasio’s letter was sent after two NYPD cops died by suicide in the space of two days.

 Robert Echeverria, 56, was found by his wife in their Laurelton home in Queens, New York, with gunshot wounds, on Wednesday, according to the New York Daily News. 

He is believed to leave behind one teenage son and a young daughter. 

His death followed that of Johnny Rios, 35, who also died from a self-inflected gunshot wound in his Shoreview Drive home in Yonkers, Westchester County, this week. 

Rios posted two images on Facebook with Precinct 50 co-worker Kevin Preiss, who also died from suicide, just a couple of days after 53-year-old Preiss’s death.

Robert Echeverria

Johnny Rios

Veteran NYPD cop Robert Echeverria (left), 56, was found dead after an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on Wednesday, while officer Johnny Rios, 35, (right), was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on Tuesday

His introduction on the social media website reads: ‘I LOST 2 friends in a week. Same time my dad passed away . . . Guess Lor[d] works in 3s.’

It’s unclear what friends Rios refers to but sources told the New York Daily News he was close to Preiss who was found dead inside his Long Island home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on June 26.

The death of the officer on Wednesday marks the ninth member of NYPD to end their lives by suicide since January 2019 and the seventh since June. 

On Wednesday Police Commissioner O’Neill and Chief Department Monahan said the force would bring in more mental health experts.

For confidential support in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tells struggling NYPD officers that ‘help is always here’ as he recalls his own father’s death by suicide

To our officers:

When I was 18, my dad took his own life.

I want to tell you about him today in the hopes that it might help you or someone you care about.

My dad volunteered for the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in WWII and fought in battles across the Pacific, including one of the war’s most horrific, the Battle of Okinawa, where 12,500 American soldiers died over 82 days. My dad survived, but towards the end of the battle, as he led a patrol, he lost half of his leg to an enemy grenade.

He came home a decorated war hero. He was always tough and physically strong, even on one good leg. But that wasn’t the kind of strength he needed. My dad couldn’t deal with what he had lived through. He turned to alcohol. And I watched as things got worse and worse – as he fell into a place emotionally that none of us could reach. I was too young to understand, but he was dealing with depression, alcoholism and PTSD.

There is no feeling worse than wanting to help someone and not knowing how.

Yesterday we lost our eighth NYPD officer to suicide this year. It is heartbreaking that the number is not zero. I don’t have any easy answers or quick fixes. But I want to say: help is always here. No matter how strong or tough you are, or how difficult it may be to accept, you always deserve help when you need it.

The City of New York supports you. Through THRIVE and the NYPD, there are resources at your disposal. Talk to someone. Use the counseling services. Access the 24/7 support network. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

My dad couldn’t accept the help he needed. He thought he could get by without it and worried what people would think. While times have changed, I know many struggle with the same concerns today.

I say from experience, There is strength in asking fo help – in doing the right thing for you and your family. Please get the support you need, and lets work together to end this crisis.

Sincerely,

Bill de Blasio,

Mayor

 

 

 

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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