Suicide, it is well known, is increasing among America’s military.
It is less well-known that suicide rates also are high among first responders.
So kudos to Casey DeSantis, Florida’s first lady, for shining a light on this issue.
The fact is that there are more suicides among first responders than deaths in the line of duty. But how many people realize that?
In 2017, there were 103 firefighter suicides nationally and 93 deaths in the line of duty. However, it’s estimated that just 40% of firefighter suicides are reported, according to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.
Also in 2017, there were 140 police officer suicides and 129 officer deaths in the line of duty.
Police and fire personnel often see many tragedies. Viewing this trauma can create stress and PTSD. Once the pain is too much to bear, suicide may result.
Depression and PTSD is five times more common among firefighters and police officers than the general population, reports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Apart from suicide, this stress can lead to impaired decision-making and poor health.
DeSantis, according to a report in Florida Politics, is promoting support programs such as peer interventions and family support therapy.
Often, the person under stress doesn’t realize the problem, but family, friends and co-workers may.
Of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the nation, many small, less than 5 percent have suicide prevention training programs.
Like the military, those in public safety professions, may see asking for help as a sign of weakness. That’s not true, but supervisors and peers need to expect some employees to need therapy and actively promote it.
“First responders are heroes who run toward danger every day in order to save the lives of others. They are also human beings, and their work exerts a toll on their mental health,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation in a news release.
One of the reasons that the public is unaware of these first responder suicides is that they are not often reported in the media. In contrast, the death of first responders normally receive wide coverage. Survivors of sexual assault deserve a bill of rights, say two Florida legislators.
Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Adam Hattersley have filed bills that would prevent a backlog of rape kits from developing again.
A backlog of 8,000 rape kits has finally been eliminated, state officials announced.
Serial rapists likely got away with more crimes as these kits were left unchecked.
The state legislation, reports Florida Politics, would also give survivors the right to free counseling, the right to have the rape kit conducted regardless of the ability to pay or whether the assault was reported to law enforcement.
Book also filed a bill that would remove the statute of limitations for civil suits due to child sexual abuse.
There would be a one-year window for lawsuits older than the statute of limitations to be filed, reported Florida Politics.
This guest editorial was originally published in The Florida Times-Union, a sister newspaper within Gannett.
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