In recent years there has been significant public interest in the increasing suicide rate in the country. There was a 30% increase in death by suicide between 2000 and 2016 according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
First responders are no exception to the epidemic of suicides across the country. Until recently data on first responders and suicide has been scarce. According to the law enforcement support site Bluehelp.org, 228 law enforcement officers took their own lives last year. The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance reported 114 firefighters took their own lives in 2019.
Both agencies report the numbers are probably larger due to lack of consistency in reporting and tracking of retirees. It also does not include attempted suicides.
Decades of responding to critical incidents will take their toll on anybody over time. Murders, child abuse, horrific traffic accidents are something first responders are required to deal with every day.
Joe Vargas from Behind the Badge sat down with Dr. Heather Williams to talk about the issues related to first responder’s mental health, PTSD and suicide.
Dr. Williams is the founder of Premier First Responder Psychological Services and has over two decades of experience in responding to critical incidents. Prior to private practice, Dr. Williams was with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in California where she was the Regional Peer Support Coordinator.
Currently Dr. Williams provides psychological services to first responders and their families.
The podcast interview is downloadable or click on the player to listen.