Law enforcement and the fire service share a strong bond within their ranks. It can be stronger than family. This strength in community should benefit departments as they address the suicide problem, not hinder them. Instead, stigma, shame and fear of being seen as weak keep personnel from talking about it or getting help.
As an EMS World article says,
... in a profession fond of boasting that no brother gets left behind, we don’t do a good job of supporting our brethren in their times of emotional and psychological vulnerability.”
Finding someone to talk to is often the sticking point, whether it is a colleague or a mental health professional.
The best way to provide an effective outlet is to have a critical incident stress management program in place and mental health professionals linked to it. This is especially difficult for volunteer departments due to budgetary constraints. Proactive leadership will consider all options, such as approaching state or local mental health offices to investigate developing a low- or no-cost program.
Departments should consider mandatory in-house workshops or training. Many of the organizations listed in the May 17, 2018 InfoGram PDF ~160 KB offer this service. Some have a fee; if the fee is prohibitive, see if some community organizations or mental health agencies will help sponsor it.
This is also a time for individuals to re-evaluate their responsibility to their team. Pulling a colleague out of the line of fire or out of a burning building comes naturally. It’s expected that you will to this — and someone will do this for you — in order to save life. Remember that those who are struggling with what they see on the job also deserve to be pulled to safety.
Review the common warning signs of depression in first responders. If you or someone you know needs help, the national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255. There are several hotlines specific to first responders; these can be found at CodeGreenCampaign.org. International numbers are listed there as well. See the websites of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America for more information and support.