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Suicide prevention resources for first responders

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September is national suicide prevention month.

One group that may need more focus on mental health is first responders.

According to the CDC, depression and PTSD affect approximately 30% of first responders.

37% of fire and emergency medical services professionals have contemplated suicide, which is nearly 10 times the rate of adults in America.

In fact, in the United States, more firefighters die from suicide than from fires.

But local groups are taking action to get responders the help they need.

Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning said at times it can be difficult to separate the job from their personal lives. He said responding to an incident involving children can be traumatic for firefighters with children of their own.

Many first reponders often aren’t aware of the negative effects the job can have before they make this a career.

“I don’t know that people going in the emergency services field would know that they’re going to be dealing with some of the mental challenges that we deal with. We see the glamorous stuff, we see all the positives, the saves that we make. Unfortunately what we do more often than not, we’re not able to save them, we’re not able to revive them, whatever the case may be and those are the calls that can haunt you," said Joe Henning, Quincy Fire Department Fire Chief.

Henning added that media like tv and movies can often highlight the perks of the job without giving people a clear view of the mental toll.

Henning said it’s important for first responders to rely on each other for support, but professional help can also be made available to those who are struggling.

Henning said when someone on the staff starts to feel sad or anxiety after a call, they often turn to their fellow first responders to talk about what they’re feeling.

That can help them know that they’re not alone, but often times, more help is needed.

“There’s a certain intersection that’s near my house and every time I drive through it I remember the incident where we had a mother and some kids killed in a T-bone accident. You can never shake those. They key is what you do to cope with it. It’s one thing to think about it but it’s another thing to have a negative reaction and be pushed to do things that maybe aren’t a normal response,” Henning said.

The Quincy Fire Department is part of local post traumatic stress debriefing team that also includes groups like EMS, police, hospital staff and the sheriff's office.

Another resource is the Fire Fighter Peer Support Network of Illinois.

The 24 hour hotline can be reached at 855-90-SUPPORT.

The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255

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Isabella Rossi

Multimedia Journalist

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