Charity softball game raises awareness of law enforcement suicide

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Members of the law enforcement community hit the baseball diamond on Saturday to raise funds and awareness for an issue that has hit close to home.

Men and women in blue took to the field at Baldwin Harbor Park for a "Strike Out Suicide" charity softball game. Each officer on the field was playing in honor of a colleague who died by suicide. It offered a chance to put the stresses of the job aside while having a good time, knowing they're not alone.

"We got their back, we're here to support you. If you're feeling that way or you know someone feeling that way, reach out," says Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

Suicide among police officers is on the rise both locally and across the country. Officers say the stress of the job and challenges are sometimes too much to bear. The NYPD and Nassau police lost 11 officers combined this year to suicide.

It hit home for Nassau County Probation Officer Michelle Panetta and her NYPD husband. Their friend and colleague Nick Mencaroni, an officer in Queens, died by suicide in January. They decided to start a nonprofit called Beyond the Badge to help other officers who feel helpless.

"When you see something like that happen, it leaves you speechless in itself, and then when you lose nine, 10, 11 more -- after that you start to realize you have to get out there and do something," says Panetta.

"We need to break the stigma and change the culture and start the conversation and start talking about the elephant in the room -- suicide," says Tommy Shevlin, with the Nassau County Police Department Employee Assistance Office. "We have to be OK with asking each other if we're OK."

Money raised at Saturday's event will go to Beyond the Badge, Blue Help and Blue Lives Matter.

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