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TSA Makes Suicide Prevention Priority Goal

Agents at Orlando International Airport/ Isaac Babcock / WMFE
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The TSA has elevated suicide prevention to a top priority for leadership after agent Robert Henry’s public suicide at the Orlando International Airport.

In a proposal obtained by WMFE, the NPR station in Orlando, the agency said Henry’s suicide and the reporting afterward alerted the agency to the problem.

“The most recent workplace suicide of a transportation security officer (TSO) plunging to his death inside Orlando International Airport shocked the agency, and together with the accompanying media coverage alerted the agency to the growing, disturbing national public-health crisis,” the document says.

Before Robert Henry killed himself in February, he sent an email to family friends saying, “Tell my managers I’ll be waiting for them in Hell.”

A WMFE investigation found Henry was bullied at work, and that the Orlando airport has a long history of bullying and harassment.

“To improve the resiliency of the TSA workforce and reduce security risks associated with suicidal employees, the TSA Administrator has elevated suicide prevention training to a priority senior leadership goal in his 2019-20 ‘Administrator’s Intent’ directive,” the document says.

Deborah Hanna is the head of the union representing TSA workers in Orlando. She said if something good comes from Henry’s death, she’s all for it.

She said a few years back, she had two officers attempt suicide in the span of three weeks.

“Thank God neither one of the officers committed suicide,” Hanna said. “I knew who to call and what to do, but it wasn’t from any training that I had at TSA when I started, I can tell you that.”

TSA officials declined an interview, but in documents, the agency says it averages between five and 15 documented employee suicide annually. Based on national statistics, the agency thinks there are 500 unreported suicide attempts.

Stan Tuchalski was Henry’s friend and manager and currently works at Orlando International Airport. He said the training could help save lives.

“I firmly believe that from what talk has said, that he clearly gave some indications, on the day of, that people missed the cues,” he said.

Late last month, TSA solicited for a contractor to create an online suicide training program for all TSA employees and to do in-person work with up to 50 TSA trainers.

Tuchalski says the training should be offered to any officer who is interested in learning about the signs of suicide.

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.