If you, or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, please reach out to the national suicide hotline at 800–273–8255. There is always help. We need you around.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) Volunteer. Combination Officers Section (VCOS) released the 2021 Yellow Ribbon Report Update: Best Practices in Behavioral Wellness for Emergency Responders.
In the email that accompanied the report to my inbox. The IAFC stated “more firefighters die from suicide each year than in the line of duty. According to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance. Many suicides are likely unreported.”
Firefighters are not the only ones Suicide:
Struck at an alarming rate by suicide. Police officers are showing similar trends. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Covid-19 was the top killer of cops in the United States in 2020. Followed by shootings and car crashes. But those are numbers for on-the-job deaths. Buried in the statistics are suicide numbers. Which, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation, outpace on-the-job deaths.
During the January 6, 2021, riot at the United States Capitol. A number of police officers suffered serious and life-threatening injuries. Two officers who were there subsequently died by suicide. Depending on who you ask, their deaths are or are not counted in the casualty count of that day. Yes, even deaths by suicide are now political. But I digress.
As a Suicide of the entire population:
The United States military has a higher rate of death by suicide than the general population. According to the Uniformed Services University. The most common method of death is by firearm. It usually happens after a particularly tough or long deployment. That risk of suicide is carried into service members’ lives after deployment. With suicides among veterans also at an alarmingly high rate.
You may have guessed why these three professions would have suicide. Rates that are higher than the general population. Men make up most of these professions. Most of the people working in these professions see some horrible things. They are subjected to high levels of emotional stress. Most of the people working in these professions are young. With brains that haven’t fully developed yet. At least in two of these professions, firearms are part of the gear of their day-to-day work.
There are more factors to be consider in the mechanics of how people. Who devote their lives to service can be in such despair that they decide to end their lives. The issues around substance use disorders that develop from trying to self-medicate. To deal with the stresses of the job. It is the lack of access to services. High expectations, so on, so forth.
If you want to attack suicide in these groups. You have to really take a highly coordinated approach that is aim at all (or most) of those factors at the same time. Because one factor alone can be enough to turn any kind of intervention on its head.
For example Suicide
Even if a person has access to mental health, one triggering event can lead them. To make an impulsive decision with their firearm. Or, even if they are doing well financially, a culture of “toughness” combined with a lack of resilience can lead them to not seek mental health care.
That is why suicide in general. Among first responders and service members in particular. Is such a unique and difficult threat to public health. They leaves communities without some of their most important pillars. It can make a fire station be understaffed during an emergency.
It may lead people away from serving, threatening public safety and national defense. And so on, and so forth.