by Jennie Taer
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tapped a “suicidologist” to address the rising suicides among its ranks amid a surge in illegal migration at the southern border, the Washington Examiner reported Wednesday.
Dr. Kent Corso, who began the role in early 2021 during high migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border, was the first to do so for any government entity, according to the Examiner.
The spike has led to morale issues among CBP officials bearing the brunt of the surge.
“This administration continues to crumble what’s left of morale and is taking the U.S. Border Patrol to irreparable levels of destruction,” a Border Patrol agent stationed at the southern border previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Standing behind someone has now taken a different meaning. Trust in leadership has been cheapened.”
In 2022, 11 CBP employees died by suicide, according to federal data obtained by the Examiner going back to 2007. The number was the highest in 2009, when there were 14 CBP suicides.
“We were sitting at five suicides, and that was alarming,” acting CBP COO Benjamine “Carry” Huffman told the Examiner.
BORDER REPORT: The first group of migrants I encountered last week in Yuma, AZ were from China, Peru, Georgia, Venezuela, Cuba, and India
Only a few dozen migrants out of the ~1,500 crossing each day into the Yuma border sector are being returned under Title 42 pic.twitter.com/iqdwAX0QKH
— Jennie Taer (@JennieSTaer) May 31, 2022
“For years in the federal government, in the military, in the private sector, we’ve played the short game with suicide, and not only has it not worked, but it’s not realistic or sustainable. The long game is changing culture and changing conversation, and that doesn’t happen behind a desk,” Corso told the Examiner.
The agency has also brought in 21 clinicians and 13 psychologists, who employees can turn to for help. And Corso and Huffman have held about 60 town halls for employees across the country over the summer.
Corso and Huffman hope to address the issue delicately because admitting to a suicide attempt means turning in one’s gun and being moved to desk duties, according to the Examiner.
“If people love their job, and part of their identity is tied to their badge and their firearm, then we remove those things for safety reasons — what we have just inadvertently done, we’ve also reduced their meaning and purpose in life. So, we’ve inadvertently ratcheted up the pressure on them when they’re already feeling at a loss and suicidal,” Corso told the Examiner.
Corso has praised “saves,” where employees asked their colleagues for help when they were contemplating suicide, according to the Examiner. The agency has used social media to share its “Be The One,” which encourages employees to ask for help.
He also started a podcast in September 2021 titled “CBP Suicide Awareness” about the issue.
CBP didn’t respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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Jennie Taer is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.