Assistance available for first responders struggling with stress, suicidal thoughts | Opinion

It’s never easy to talk about negative thoughts one might experience. It can be even more difficult if you work in a field where every time you clock in you respond to people who are at their worst or struggling themselves.

First responders have an important job that can leave them feeling drained after they clock out, but may feel like the layperson might not understand what they are experiencing and why they are struggling if they reach out.

According to the Center for Disease Control, firefighters and law enforcement are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, and EMS personnel are 1.39 times more likely to die by suicide than the public.

It is not unknown to the public that being in these professions has its occupational stresses, but often people not in the field don’t know how to help. Oftentimes first responders don’t know how to help themselves because they feel that what they are experiencing is a normal part of their job.

The CDC also reported perceived stigma around mental health problems or concerns over impact on employment (ie being labeled “unfit” for duty) may lead first responders to not report suicidal thoughts. Without adequate support to ask for help and knowing where to go, an entire population of public servants is at risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide while fearing being stigmatized because they need help.

At ASAC we are making those who are struggling a priority and are working to increase connectedness to local resources for those who might be struggling and need help. Through the Integrated Provider Network grant, our goal is to have employers in Clinton County have policies to assist employees in finding resources, emergency contacts for providers, specialized training, as well as training on stigma for management and human resources.

For more information about ASAC’s suicide initiatives and policy efforts, reach out to prevention@asac.us or call (319) 390-4611. If you or a loved one needs support, call or text 988. If you are having thoughts of completing suicide and need immediate help call 911.

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