Watch your 12 — A Plea To First Responders

I am here to beg.

It’s not easy to beg, it takes swallowing an immense amount of pride for most people to plead to someone else.

But I’ll do it, for you. The local firefighter, police officer, or other first responder who might be reading this. You see, because swallowing pride is something that must be done sometimes for the greater good.

So I beg you first responders, please, please, place a priority on your own mental health. There is a silent epidemic of mental health problems and suicide throughout your first responder community, but you are too busy helping others in need to worry about our own health. You didn’t get into this industry to help yourselves, no, you have a passion of making the world a better place, and while that’s extremely admirable, it also requires you being alive to make that vision a reality.

We need you first responders, we need you the next time a house catches on fire, or a car flips over on a freeway, or a robbery turns into a hostage situation. We need the people who put themselves in dangerous situations so everyone else can live a peaceful life. But the unfortunate reality is that those professions come at a risk much greater than the ones we see on the TV news every day. A person can only witness so much trauma and negative situations before it starts to take a toll on their mental health. According to B.L.U.E Help, a Police Suicide Prevention Program, three times the amount of police officers died by taking their own lives compared to gunfire in 2018.

It’s estimate that for every 1 police officer that takes their life, there are another 1,000 struggling with PTSD.

Last year, more firefighters were lost to suicide than to line-of-duty deaths.

And it’s not fair.

It’s not fair that the people who take these jobs to make a tangible difference in the world are being rewarded with PTSD and depression. They deserve so much more.

But I promise you, if you are reading this and struggle with mental health demons, I promise you that you are not broken, you can be helped. There are countless resources, like The 9–99 Foundation and Copline, that were created to help people just like you.

I get it, “you’re fine”, you have bigger and more important things to worry about, you’re worried that you’ll lose your job if you seek help, or that it’s just frankly “not how you were raised”.

But I am pleading with you, throw out all those excuses, because I promise you none of those things, nor your pride, are more important than your life. Your wife, husband, children, family, or coworkers would agree with me, trust me. You won’t lose you job seeking to better your mental health, but you will lose your job and everything else if you die.

I can’t stress enough — it’s OK to have suicidal thoughts, or to have considered it. You are not less of a person because of it. It is, unfortunately, much more normal than you think. It’s hard going into work and seeing people die, or burned, or raped, or mutilated every day. Those words are hard enough to read and write, much less see each day. Mental health and depression for first responders are often times rooted in trauma and extremely high-stress levels. God only knows how much of both of those first responders go through.

It can get better though. The pain, the sadness, the emptiness, they can go away or at least become much more bearable. I promise you the hardest part is picking up the phone, or typing that email, or doing whatever you need to do to get the ball rolling, but after that, it gets easier, and hopefully life gets better.

So please, swallow your pride for your own good and #WatchYour12, we‘ve got your six. Forget how you were raised to not show your emotions, forget other people’s problems for a change, and reach out for yourself. You matter, we need you to be here, because your life is important. Your presence in the world makes an incredibly positive, tangible difference in all our lives.

Here are some links to point you in the right direction:

Police Officers: 999foundation.org, copline.org, bluehelp.org

Fire Fighters: ffbha.org