SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – According to several published reports, first responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
This Suicide Prevention Month (and all year long) nonprofits are working to get others to openly talk about their struggles and what can be done to fight the stigma surrounding mental health.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a quick snap-to-your-fingers solution,” said Brandielee Baker. “There is this perception that seeking help for mental health is weak, especially among military and first responders.”
Baker is the president of the Code 9 Project, a nonprofit that provides education and mental health training to first responders and their families.
Baker says that while mental health issues are prevalent in this career field, many fear talking about them could actually hurt their future.
“Talking about our struggles is counterproductive for securing employment,” she said of some people’s mindsets.
Organizations like Code 9 Project and Savannah’s own Fight the War Within Foundation aim to erase this stigma by starting from the top, holding workshops and immersive learning experiences with managers of first responders.
Some in the field want these departments to do a better job of preparing prospective first responders for what’s ahead.
“I think that going into this job, people need to be made aware of the challenges that they are getting into mentally, not just physically,” said Amy Headrick, a firefighter and EMT.
Headrick considers herself to be a veteran in the industry, so she has a mental housekeeping tip for younger first responders.
“Find a battle buddy. Somebody you can talk to,” she said. “Because there is a stigma, and you don’t want to feel differently if you are treated some kind of way.”
Headrick says she is encouraged by a gradual increase in mental health resources for first responders.
To learn more about the Code 9 Project, visit here. Help is available right now; just call 844-HOPE-247.