I believe there are at least 3 paths that lead to a First Responder contemplating / committing suicide. They are:
- Cumulative / Chronic Stress – Operational and/or Organizational
- Acute Stress – Critical Incident
- Poor Choices – Finances, Relationships, Substance Abuse, Risky Behaviors, etc.
I believe that suicide prevention / wellness training should be included in every academy, with follow-up training on a regular basis. However, once a First Responder is considered to be a risk to himself / herself, there needs to be an assessment to determine how and/or why the First Responder is in a potentially critical situation. Once that assessment is completed, a treatment strategy can be implemented.
Medical / First Responder Suicide Prevention Comparison (FRSPC)
Medical: There are steps a person can take to avoid getting cancer, e.g. avoid tobacco products, healthy diet, exercise, sleep 8 hours, etc.
FRSPC: There are steps First Responders can take to avoid getting to the point where they contemplate and/or commit suicide, e.g. healthy diet, exercise, vent appropriately, mindfulness practices, etc.
Medical: Once a person is diagnosed with cancer, the origin of the cancer needs to be identified in order to address the source of the disease.
FRSPC: Once a First Responder is identified as having a mental health issue, the origin of the issue needs to be identified in order to address the source of the issue.
Medical: The source (location) of the cancer often dictates what the best course of action / treatment will be, e.g. chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, etc.
FRSPC: The source of the mental health issue (cumulative stress. acute stress, poor choices etc.) should assist in identifying the best course of treatment. For example, a police officer who is in a mental health crisis because of an officer involved shooting would not / should not be treated the same as an officer who has violated state law.
Medical / FRSPC: In both cases, the patient’s / First Responder’s treatment should be monitored to see if it is having the desired effect. If not, adjustments, should be made. Once the disease and / or mental health crisis is resolved, the patient / First Responder should be monitored to ensure the disease and / or mental health issues have not resurfaced. Even a cancer patient that has been given a clean bill of health has yearly follow-up visits.
- Do we take the time to properly diagnose the source of the First Responder’s mental health issues?
- Do we demand that each First Responder be given a unique treatment plan, based on his / her individual needs or so do we typically go with the one plan fits all?
- Do we monitor / communicate with the First Responder while they are going through treatment or do we purposely / unknowingly ostracize them?
- Once the First Responder is given a clean bill of health, do we require follow-up checks to ensure the issues have not resurfaced?
THERE ISN’T / SHOULD NOT BE 1 SOLUTION. OUR FIRST RESPONDERS DESERVE MORE THAN THAT!