[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Wednesday's episode of S.W.A.T., "Stigma." Read at your own risk!]
Hondo's (Shemar Moore) team onS.W.A.T.goes through a lot in every episode, but Wednesday's special hour of the CBS drama took some time to evaluate how much of an emotional and psychological toll their life-saving work takes on their psyches.
Everything kicks off with a search for Buck (Louis Ferriera), who has been in a downward spiral after screwing up with the private security firm he's working for. When he stopps returning phone calls, both Hondo and Street (Alex Russell) head out to look for their mentor. The search evolves into a full-on mission when they discover that Buck might be planning to take his own life.
In the midst of trying to find Buck before he does something he can't take back, the team also has to take down a pair of gunmen looking to set up their next robbery. While tracking the second suspect, they discover that he fatally shot a woman trying to protect her small child, a one-year old who was also shot in the face. Discovering the two together was too much for the team to take, even without factoring in the stress over Buck.
Deacon (Jay Harrington) eventually finds Buck alone, holding a gun at his favorite fishing spot. He had definitely prepared to kill himself, but Deacon, along with Hondo and Street, talk him out of it and convince him to get some real help.
Throughout the episode, the audience sees each of the S.W.A.T. team members check in with an LAPD psychiatrist to help them process everything they had been through that day. For those scenes, each person spoke directly to camera, giving the audience an unflinching look at how the day's events affects each person. Each of them discuss the importance of not showing fear while on the job, but also how that can be taxing on their personal lives -- especially if they don't have a person who can handle talking about the gruesome and heartbreaking things they see on a daily basis.
The episode was designed to bring awareness to the fact that police officers and law enforcement are significantly more likely to deal with depression and suicidal thoughts than civilians. By shining a light on the issue, and demonstrating that it's okay to ask for help -- the episode is titled "Stigma" -- S.W.A.T. hopes to bring compassion and empathy to a group of people who are trained to hide their feelings in order to protect others.
It was absolutely a more personal episode than we are used to seeing from the procedural and illuminated some holes in the system where police officers can fall through the cracks if they don't have someone actively looking out for them. While Buck didn't go through with his plan, there is still a long road ahead for his recovery -- but S.W.A.T. put in a lot of effort to show that there is still hope, even when all seems lost.
The cast filmed a PSA for end of the episode that invited anyone struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts to call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
S.W.A.T. continues Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS.