Injuries are frustrating. This one is frustrating to me for so many reasons. Running is my coping mechanism. I have been grumpy lately and I know it's a result of not being able to run. Mostly though, I think I am frustrated more because I was running the MCM to raise awareness for suicide prevention for first responders. I will have to discontinue the campaign now that I won't be able to run. I am very disappointed about that. Suicide is such a hard topic to talk about. Running the MCM gave me a platform to talk about suicide prevention.
The media doesn't publicize first responder suicides nearly as often as they occur. Every year we hear about how many Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters are killed in the line of duty. Would it surprise you that nearly double that take their lives each year by suicide? I bet most people don't know the devastating toll of the job on first responders. I was an EMT for only a short bit so I can't say I know all they go through but I have an idea. There is one call I ran while an EMT that I will never forget and it has to do with fire. It's part of the reason why I struggled so much after my fire a few years ago. My fire brought back a memory I thought I had put away forever. And that's only one call, how many calls haunt first responders in their dreams? I bet it's well more than one. Whether a firefighter, EMT, paramedic or police officer, they all experience things that most of us never could imagine. And because most of us can't relate to what they see and experience, first responders find it hard to reach out to others who are not first responders. So what do they do? They bury it. They don't want to burden their family or friends with the emotional things they see on the job. The problem with not talking about it is it leads to coping mechanisms that may not be safe such as drinking, drugs and other risky behaviors that help distract from the nightmares.
This year alone 71 firefighter suicides have been confirmed including the recent suicide of a firefighter while on duty in Katy, Texas. It's very possible the number of suicides is higher than that as not all suicides are reported as suicides. EMS suicides are generally included in firefighter suicide statistics. It's harder to track LEO suicides because oftentimes the death is not reported as a suicide. And that's too bad. In order for officers, firefighters and EMS to be more likely to get help, they need to know there is a support system in place. If law enforcement won't acknowledge that a suicide has happened, it is less likely for an officer to reach out to someone if they are struggling. For example, Johnson County (KS) Sheriff's Office had a deputy lose his life to suicide earlier this year. It was not reported as a suicide and therefor the opportunity to help others who may be struggling was missed. The more we talk about suicide out in the open, the better chance we have of saving someone who may need help but is too afraid to ask for it. Suicide needs to be talked about openly in order to break down the stigma associated with it. Until that happens, people will continue to be afraid to ask for help. I speak from experience here. Fire and EMS have gotten a little further than law enforcement in regards to suicide prevention. Suicides are now being tracked as much as possible in Fire/EMS and workshops are being put in place to help departments when they lose one of their own to suicide. The organization I was raising funds for is one of those organizations that provides workshops for LEO/Fire/EMS to help with suicide prevention as well as grief after a suicide. To learn more about it visit the Sweeney Alliance at http://sweeneyalliance.net/ or the Grieving Behind the Badge blog at http://grievingbehindthebadgeblog.net/.
I may not be able to run the Marine Corps Marathon this year but my desire to talk about suicide prevention has not diminished. It's a difficult topic but one that's worth having a conversation about. You might just save someone's life.
If you or someone you know is struggling there is help. Reach out to a friend, family member, coworker, partner, spouse, counselor, priest.... just reach out. Where there is help, there is hope.