Why do I want to raise awareness for suicide prevention? Because one suicide is one too many!
Why do I want to focus on raising awareness for suicide prevention for first responders? Because they are the helpers. Who are they supposed to call when they need help?
The stigma for suicide is very real. People are afraid to ask for help because they don't know how others will view them when they say they need help. Having been there I know this issue all too well. People don't want to talk about suicide because of the stigma associated with it. It's time to start a conversation worth having.
What makes suicide so difficult to prevent is that it is not a condition or disorder, but rather an outcome that may result from the presence (or accumulation) of many risk factors. What makes suicide in first responders even more difficult to prevent is that they are the helpers. Those who work in Fire/EMS/Law Enforcement face the risk of my behavioral concerns such as anxiety, depression, burnout, ptsd to name a few. But the problem is that they don't talk about behavioral health when it comes to each other. The often mentioned mantra in first responders is "We help others but never ourselves."
Why is it so difficult for someone in Fire/EMS/Law Enforcement to ask for help? Risk of losing their peer’s respect, fear of being viewed as weak and unable to perform their jobs, fear of confidentiality, fear of losing their career? It’s no wonder so many of the helpers suffer in silence. Why do I want to raise awareness for suicide prevention for first responders? For Nico and TJ and all other first responders who ended their life too soon because they couldn’t ask for help.
Nicholas “Nico” Cruz passed away on July 27, 2014. He was a firefighter with more than 20 years on the job. He received numerous accolades for saving lives. When he wasn’t at work he gave his time to many charitable organizations including MDA, BACA and Brotherhood for Children. Nico was a firefighter, a husband, a father and so much more. What might have been the greatest hurdle for Nico was the loss of his wife to suicide nearly a year prior to his suicide. After her death Nico made it a mission to educate others about suicide prevention. Those of us who knew Nico knew the anniversary of Carli’s death was difficult and may have been too much for him to endure. Someone who ends their life by suicide doesn’t necessarily want to die; they just want their pain to end. Nico was struggling with the loss of Carli and didn’t know how to make the pain end.
Timothy J. “TJ” Shavers passed away December 8, 2012. TJ was a detective who spent a good portion of his career in cyber-crimes investigating online sexual predators, identity theft, email scams, internet theft, etc. He was trained specifically to focus on investigate crimes against children and spent nearly the last 7 years of his career catching these predators. TJ was a law enforcement officer, a husband and a father. He, like many law enforcement officers, struggled with the pressures of undercover work vs personal life balance.
Was it the constant exposure to horror at work or something going on at home that proved too much for Nico or TJ to handle? We may never know. All we do know is they wanted the pain to end. For whatever reason, neither reached out for help. I can’t say I know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of first responders but I have many friends who do and if I can help even one of them get help when they need it, it is worth the effort. Asking for help is hard. I should know; it was the bravest thing I ever did!
I am running the Marine Corps Marathon to support the groundbreaking collaboration of The Sweeney Alliance and Rethink The Conversation to develop national programs to educate first responders about suicide prevention and coping with the aftermath of a suicide.
Will you support my cause? Here's a link to my campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/suicidehelp
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog entry! This cause has my heart, I hope it has yours too!
If you or someone you know is struggling please ask for help. Where there is help, there is hope!