It is not a problem only within the Fire Service; suicide is an epidemic in all walks of life.
This article will be tough to not only write, but also see in print for the world to see. Sometimes topics are far too important to shy away from, no matter your personal fears. We have not completely avoided this conversation; we have just not completely opened up regarding it. This is about to change……..
On June 2nd 2015 the article published by this paper was entitled “Who Rescues the Rescuers”, where the discussion was in regards to the growing problem of suicide amongst firefighters across the country. This growing problem is also seen with Military, Police, EMS, and the general public. It is not a problem only within the Fire Service; suicide is an epidemic in all walks of life.
People who don’t suffer from depression struggle to understand the decision to take one’s life. Suicide is called selfish, uncaring, and mean, amongst many other labels. We struggle to understand this decision so we tend to label the act to make it more comfortable for us to talk about. Until we talk about this openly and honestly, these trends will only continue to grow. For those who have never suffered from depression, it can be nearly impossible to understand. But our lack of understanding and our means of justifying this by attaching labels do not change this reality that those around us face.
Depression many times is masked by those who suffer and for this reason when something such as suicide is attempted or occurs we are taken by surprise and wonder why we never saw the signs. All they had to do was to reach out, why didn’t they come to me? We have put such a stigma on mental disease, depression and suicide that it makes it almost impossible for those who suffer to ask even loved ones for help. They fear they will be seen in a different light, as weak, and the thought of losing that respect and that love would surely push them over the edge.
We need to drop the stereotypes, the tags, the names and realize just like any other illness, Mental Illness is a disease that needs to be treated. During a conference several years ago the instructor had a brother who was a firefighter and he died of suicide. For those reading this I hope you noted that I said he died of suicide, not committed suicide.
We would never say that one of our loved ones committed cancer and passed away, so why are we comfortable saying they committed suicide? This single word in this simple phrase says so much about our views on suicide. It is these views and beliefs that make it hard for anyone to step up and say I need help. Suicide is seen by the individual as the last, best option. They are not being selfish to their loved ones and families. They truly believe those who love would be better off with them gone.
How do I know what goes through their minds and you don’t? I suffer from this disease and fight this on a daily basis. Luckily I have a strong support system around me that I have learned to reach out to, most don’t have this. If my coming forward can help one other individual reach out or one loved one to open their mind to this disease, then this article was worth being put in print for everyone to see.