POSTED: Friday, August 20, 2010 - 5:13pm
UPDATED: Saturday, August 21, 2010 - 7:49am
A scary new reality for Border Patrol is inspiring a new course for agents.
"We've seen suicides within the Border Patrol," said Robert Treadwell, instructor of suicide awareness training.
He says this didn't used to be an issue. But now, with so much violence just feet away from us, it is.
"Since 2008 to the present, we've seen 17 suicides," he said.
The last suicide here in El Paso by a Border Patrol agent was in December.
"It was tough, it happened right before the holidays and if you spoke with the agents, it was tough."
While Treadwell tries to coach agents to look out for warning signs like change in behavior and appearance he can't change the nature of the job.
"It's a very close quarters environment," he said. "You don't know what folks have in their vehicle, what they might have at their side."
Add everyday home struggles, and often these agents feel like they have nowhere to turn.
"We see a lot of times the worst in society not the best," he said. "We internalize it, we have to keep it in because of the impact is would have on our loved ones."
Treadwell says most of the agents in his training have never talked about suicide before. But he hopes he can help prevent another tragedy from hitting the borderland.
The Border Patrol also has programs like peer support groups and a chaplaincy to help agents.