First responders speak out against stigma around suicide and mental health support
Colorado Springs, Colorado (KKTV) – Firefighters and police are more likely to die by suicide than on the job, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This problem is not limited to police and firefighters. According to the same CDC report, an EMS provider is 1.39 times more likely to die by suicide than the general public. Researchers found that telecommunications workers in dispatch centers often experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, although studies specific to that group were linked above. It is described as being “delayed” in the report.
Colorado Springs police and firefighters are working to end the stigma around discussing mental health and suicide concerns within their institutions.
“It’s okay if it’s not okay,” said the sergeant. CSPD’s Jason Newton. “For too long we’ve had this stigma attached to mental health and never addressed it. Hopefully now the culture is about to make that change.”
According to Newton, CSPD representatives have access to a variety of support options for free.
“We have officers who do yoga, meditation, mindfulness training or counseling. All of this is free for officers and their families because we have a very good source of funding through grants. He went on to explain that a new counseling resource for officers’ families will begin next week.
Newton hopes that sharing his story will help other officers.
“As a supervisor, I share my story of how counseling has helped me. It has helped my career and helped my wife and I go through some really difficult times in our lives.” he said. “It makes you more connected to his members of the community. If they’ve been through a tragedy and you’ve been through a tragedy yourself, you can connect a little deeper and that’s what makes us better cops.” helps to become
Firefighters in Colorado Springs are also working to raise awareness of mental health. They have a peer support program, and some firefighters are coached by department psychologists on how to spot warning signs and be attentive listeners in other firefighters.
John Giacoma is one of the CSFD’s peer supporters. As a former combat veteran in the military, he knows that gruesome scenes can have an impact.
“Shootings, stabbings, cardiac arrests, and rescue operations that don’t go as planned are much more serious than we carry out and can cause extensive thinking and nightmares,” he said.
He recommends not being afraid to ask if you are contemplating suicide.
“Be brave and don’t be afraid to ask questions…if that’s what they really think, or if the plan is in place, or if their heart is there, it’s me.” It’s something we need to take different things…we walk together,” said Giacoma.
If you or someone you know is a first responder seeking mental health resources, you can confidentially text BADGE to 741741 for free. Click here for more information.
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