Russell David SHEEHAN
Queensland Police Force
Regd. # ?
Rank: Detective Senior Constable
Stations: ?, Bundaberg, Maroochydore, Theodore, Childers, Sunshine Coast C.I.B. – to death
Service: From ? to ? December 2015 = 33+ years Service
Born: 28 February 1962
Died on: Wednesday 23 December 2015
Funeral date: Thursday 31 December 2015 @ 1pm
Funeral location: Gregson & Weight Funeral Directors, 5 Gregson Pce, Caloundra, Qld
Buried at: Cremated
Memorial at: ?
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Suicide of career cop leaves pain
AMY Williams will gather with her sisters at their mum’s Sunshine Coast home today to celebrate what would have been her dad’s 54th birthday.
They will share a beach-themed cake she is sure her police officer father, Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan, would have loved.
She hopes they will be able to joke about the countless good times they had with their dad but knows the treasured sound of his raucous laugh will be sadly missing.
Det Snr Const Sheehan’s suicide on December 23 last year shocked his family, colleagues and the wider community.
He had been based on the Coast for the past 12 years of his 33-year police career, predominantly with the Maroochydore Child Protection Investigation Unit and the Criminal Investigation Branch.
Mrs Williams, the eldest of Det Snr Const Sheehan and his wife Kathy’s four daughters, said her family was still trying to adjust without their “rock”.
“We never thought he would see that as his only option,” Mrs Williams said.
“I THINK he got very good at the end at hiding exactly how he felt.”
They knew he had been struggling in the past year and that he had sought help for depression through the Queensland Police Service and a psychologist.
Mrs Williams said she had frequently been asked whether her dad’s experiences, such as being a first responder to the tragic Childers backpacker fire in 2000, had contributed to his mental health difficulties.
But she did not know.
“I know that Dad could not pinpoint one particular incident,” she said.
“There were a lot of things that were distressing about the work and cases he did.”
She described her dad as a very proud person.
“To admit he was struggling and not performing how he would like to be was hard for him,” she said.
“He was trying so hard to be his old self but it wasn’t happening as quickly as he wanted.”
Mrs Williams said her father had always been happy at home during her childhood.
“His job was a stressful job, but he never brought it home,” she said.
“But last year it became evident that was getting harder for him to do.”
His career took his family to postings in Theodore, Childers and the Coast.
Mrs Williams said her dad was known for having a raucous laugh that would instantly make other people laugh.
She said some people would go to the old cinema in Theodore just to hear his laugh when he was there watching a movie.
“We really miss that.”
She recalled how her dad had been able to find the humour in being bitten on the backside by an over-excited police dog during an arrest.
“Dad would always find the funny side of anything,” she said.
“He had a very good wit and a very quick wit.”
Police support since Det Snr Const Sheehan’s death
has been “tremendous”.
Mrs Williams said an assistant commissioner flew from Rockhampton on Christmas Eve to be with her family.
There has been a steady flow of support since then.
She has welcomed a charity bike ride being organised by her dad’s former colleagues to raise money for Blue Hope, a police-run organisation dedicated to helping other police.
Ride for Russ, a 300km journey from Woodgate to Maroochydore, will be held on May 21.
“It’s a wonderful way to honour Dad while raising awareness of suicide and depression in police officers,” Mrs Williams said.
“I think it shows how much Dad’s work colleagues loved and respected him, to go to those lengths.”
More immediately, Mrs Williams said today’s birthday celebrations were important to her family.
“We just don’t ever want to stop remembering him. He is in our thoughts every day.
“As sad as these milestones are, they are bringing us together as a family.”
Anyone with issues arising from this story can phone Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
Queensland Police: Family call for more psychologists after detective took his own life
The grieving family of a Queensland policeman who took his life say the police psychologist did not have time to treat him.
Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan ended his life two months ago after 33 years as a policeman.
His daughter Amy Williams said he was widely seen as a happy, optimistic person.
“He was such a genuinely wonderful person, a gentle soul, a caring soul.
“I used to tell people I don’t know how he was a police officer because he just wasn’t this tough, rough person, he was so gentle and caring but I think that is what people admired about him in his line of work.”
Constable Sheehan was also admired for his role in investigating the gruesome Childers Palace Backpackers Hostel fire that claimed 15 lives in 2000.
But Ms Williams, the eldest of Constable Sheehan’s four daughters, said that was not the only trauma he experienced.
“As tragic as that was, there were other things that Dad saw in his line of work that I know stuck with him perhaps more so than that one particular event.”
Constable Sheehan had suffered anxiety over a long period.
Suicides within the general population are about 12 per 100,000. In the police, it’s north of 18 per 100,000.Bruce Graydon, Blue Hope.
“Some days it would be difficult for him to even leave the house, but he did,” Ms Williams said.
“He was battling it very privately, he didn’t want people to know that he was suffering.
“He felt I guess like he was a bit of a failure, that he couldn’t cope with it, so he just wanted to try to maintain a normal life.”
Last May the anxiety became so bad that the 53-year-old found himself unable to get out of his car to go to work at Maroochydore.
He went on stress leave and contacted the police psychologist for the Sunshine Coast.
“She was wonderful, Dad felt an instant connection with her,” Ms Williams said.
“However she sort of made it clear early on that she was very very busy, her books were quite full, she wasn’t going to be able to take Dad on as another client.”
So Constable Sheehan was referred to a private psychologist.
“But he always felt that the QPS psychologist really understood what he was going through a bit more so than the private psychologist he was seeing.
“I’m not laying any blame on the QPS for what happened to Dad, because in the end we don’t know whether having that consultation with the Queensland Police psychologist would have changed the outcome for him.
“He may still have gone down this path.
“However, we want to make sure that for future and current serving police that there are adequate resources in place to help them when they need help.”
Ms Williams has written to the Queensland Police Commissioner, Police Minister and Opposition Police spokesman expressing concern about the lack of resources.
The Commissioner Ian Stewart is yet to respond to the ABC’s interview request.
Police suicide rate higher than general population
Former Queensland Police Detective Inspector Bruce Graydon said at least a dozen of his close colleagues had taken their lives over his 30-year career.
Inspector Graydon co-founded a support service called Blue Hope.
“Suicides within the general population are about 12 per 100,000,” he said.
“In the police, it’s north of 18 per 100,000.”
The real number is expected to be far worse.
“The moment that they leave the police or they’re retired medically unfit, their death isn’t recorded by the Coroner as a police-related suicide.”
Inspector Graydon said police need help to retrain and find new jobs, rather than feel cast aside.
The not-for-profit group Blue Hope has made links with education and recruitment organisations to assist officers that seek its help.
And he agrees with Ms Williams more support is needed earlier.
“We’re all for internal supports, we’re for any support, but some police officers just will not turn to internal supports so there needs to be additional options.
“There is a perception, be it true or untrue, that there’s no confidentiality.”
Blue Hope has case managed more than 130 people since it formed two years ago, and assisted hundreds of others around the country.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, police suicides have prompted the Commissioner Graham Ashton to order a mental health review which he hopes will lead to greater support for officers.
Demand for mental health support for police officers is on the rise
An organisation providing mental health first aid for police officers says the demand for its services is on the rise.
Detective Sergeant Andrew Ayers, the co-founder of Blue Hope, said the organisation had just helped its 177th client.
“[Suicide] is a massive problem. It’s endemic to police everywhere,” Mr Ayers said.
“We identified a shortfall in support services available, and that is that each law enforcement agency around the country has their own internal strategy in terms of dealing with mental health and stress in general amongst police officers.
“[But] there is a bit of a reluctance for members to use those services.”
The organisation is a relatively new service that was formed in 2014 to support police officers and their families to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide and other mental health issues.
“Blue Hope basically caters for those people who aren’t for any reason, or don’t for any reason, utilise internal support strategies. We provide mental health first aid for them on a national basis,” Detective Sergeant Ayers said.
The organisation’s aim is to raise awareness of police suicide and to provide a 24 hour hotline service for officers, both current and former.
Raising awareness of police suicide in the Wide Bay ( Qld )
Detective Sergeant Ayers recently visited Bundaberg to attend and support a fundraiser organised to celebrate the life of Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan, who took his life in December.
The more people we can get talking about suicide the more likely it is that we can prevent itDetective Sergeant Andrew Ayers
In 2000 the senior constable was the first on the scene of the Palace Backpackers Hostel fire in Childers where 15 people lost their lives.
Detective Sergeant Ayers said it was clear Detective Senior Constable Sheehan had had a positive influence on the Bundaberg, Childers and Woodgate areas.
“We’ve had some extensive dealings with his family in the wake of his tragic death,” he said.
“The focus really was to have people talking about the fact that such a highly regarded police officer felt that his only option was to take his own life, and that’s the real sad aspect of it.
“The more people we can get talking about [suicide], the more likely it is that we can prevent it.”
He said the tragedy of Detective Senior Constable Sheehan’s death highlighted the need to support all emergency service workers, who were usually the first on the scene of traumatic incidents.
Big toll on first responders
Figures released last year revealed it was estimated one emergency service worker took their own life every six weeks.
The figure, based on coronial cases, has support organisations concerned that the figure could actually be higher.
In response, Beyond Blue is preparing to undertake a national mental health study on first responders to investigate the prevalence of mental health conditions, suicide and stigma in Australia.
The findings of the study will be released at the end of 2017.
Beyond Blue’s spotlight on mental health issues facing emergency service workers is also set to intensify next month, as the first national conference on the mental health of Australian first responders is held in Sydney.
A personal response
While organisations such as Blue Hope and Beyond Blue are raising awareness, so too are individuals.
If I can stress anything out there to the people, to anyone with post-traumatic stress, or even if they are feeling a little bit off — talk to people, communicate.Graham Forlonge
Singer songwriter Brendan Smoother, from Lismore in NSW, was horrified by the number of paramedics taking their own lives.
This prompted him to write and release an EP entitled Paramedic Suicide.
Mr Smoother, a paramedic himself for 21 years, won an award at this year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival for the EP.
Mr Smoother said he had been inspired to write the songs when he read about the alarming statistics of paramedics committing suicide, and realised he himself had known a number of paramedics who had taken their own lives.
“Personally I’ve never really had an issue with post-traumatic stress disorder, but I have certainly seen it in other people, ” he said.
The importance of seeking help
Former police officer, surf lifesaver and search and rescue diver Graham Forlonge, from Baffle Creek in Queensland, is one of many emergency services personnel whose life has been negatively impacted by PTSD.
Mr Forlonge said he struggled to get the right help for years, due to the number and type of traumatic incidents he had experienced.
“The best thing I could say to the people out there suffering from post-traumatic stress, and there are thousands of them — police, ambulance, fire brigade, rescue squad, military — is if you’re having issues, keep looking. There are people out there who do understand PTSD,” Mr Forlonge said.
He said talking to people and telling his stories had helped him, and he urged others to do the same.
“You’ve got to find someone to talk to,” he said.
“If I can stress anything out there to the people, to anyone with post-traumatic stress, or even if they are feeling a little bit off — talk to people, communicate,” he said.
Vale Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan.
Russell was the much loved soul mate and husband to his wife Katharyn. The protector, mentor and adored father to Amy, Kaitlyn, Lara and Eden. Cherished eldest son of Brian and Pamela Sheehan. Admired and selfless brother to Anthony, Angela, Gabrielle and Chris.
He was also a much loved son in law to Kevin & Doreen Brewer and brother in law to Pete, Sue and Amanda and uncle to their children. So devastated and heartbroken
Russell was also an exceptional detective with three decades of service. Our thoughts are with the Sunshine Coast police community, especially his colleagues at the Criminal Investigation Branch.
The broader policing community also mourn the death of an exceptional man who will be missed by all who knew him.
Rest easy Detective, your work here is done.
Please Note: You can help Russell’s family celebrate his life.
The Sheehan family would love to hear any stories QPS members might have of Russell. You can share your memories or messages by emailing the family at: email@example.com
Funeral details will be posted in due course.
Deb Bryant I’m so very saddened to hear of the tragic death of your precious husband, father, son, brother, friend, colleague. I hope in the days & months ahead that you gain comfort from the loving words and precious stories that you will receive about him & how his life & work touched so many. May these new memories sustain you as you learn to live with his loss.
He was also a much loved son in law to Kevin & Doreen Brewer and brother in law to Pete, Sue and Amanda and uncle to their children. So devastated and heartbroken
Karina Richards Uncle Russ – what a legend! You always made me feel soo welcome & loved when I could make it up for a visit. Little words like Chum or kiddo I will always remember as words from you. I loved listening to that distinctive loud belly laugh too!! Soo many fond memories. Thoughts and prayers at this sad time. RIP Xx
Tammie Walter I am so sorry to see this tonight, my love, prayers and condolences to you Kath and to all the family. Yes Russell is a true gentleman, may the many memories and years you have shared together sustain you and give you strength as you journey through this sad time, RIP Russell. Tammy (McKenzie)
Melissa Craig Our sincere and deepest sympathy to Kathy, Amy, Kaitlin, Lara & Eden at this very difficult time. You are all in our thoughts. Russell was one of a kind, such a great bloke. Our thoughts are also with his other family, the Queensland Police Service. He will never be forgotten.
Sheree Mitchell The saddest news imaginable, I can’t believe it. Just the loveliest family man. My thoughts are with you Kath, Amy, Kaitlin, Lara & Eden. I cannot imagine the pain you are all in, words can’t express how sorry I am for your loss. Sending all my strength to you at this time. Russ, I pray you have found peace. Xx
In faith and service, your family is in our prayers from Canada.
Alison Jackson Tragic!!!
Hunt for man ends at hotel
A TWO-week police hunt for a 30-year-old man ended when he was found enjoying a beer in Maroochydore.
The Maroochydore man has been charged with 37 offences, including 10 counts of stealing, six counts of break and enter and three counts of resisting arrest.
Police found him drinking a beer at a hotel yesterday.
Police allege the man committed offences which date back to November.
The 30-year-old man has also been charged with fraud, evading police and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
Police say the alleged offender stole a black Nissan utility and drove it around various locations on the Sunshine Coast where he committed offences.
Sunshine Coast property crime squad Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan said the arrest ended a two-week police hunt.
Snr Const Sheehan urged residents to contact police if they witness any suspicious activity.
The accused man was held in custody.
He will appear in Maroochydore Magistrates Court today.
Thief stole fishing gear, tools
POLICE are searching for a teenager suspected of breaking into a Buderim home.
Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan said the young man grabbed fishing equipment and tools which he slipped into his backpack.
The brazen effort was during daylight hours, about 3pm on November 14 last year.
Det Snr Const Sheehan said because of the time of year, the suspect’s moustache may have been in honour of Movember.
“It would have been in the middle of that, so people need to bear that in mind when they look at it.”
The thief is believed to be Caucasian, aged between 16 and 17, 175cm tall, of average build with short and straight brown hair.
He was wearing a blue shirt, dark coloured board shorts and thongs at the time and carrying two black bags.
One was a backpack and the other a sports bag.