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If you are a health care or public safety professional struggling with stress, trauma, depression or substance use, you’re not alone.
Let’s be honest and directly address the subject of suicide prevention. The statistics for frontline professionals are troubling. The law enforcement, firefighting and emergency service communities continue to suffer losses to suicide at unacceptable rates. Suicide impacts the health care profession in disturbingly high numbers as well.
It’s reasonable to expect that you may be negatively impacted by the stress and trauma you face during the course of your work. Frontline professionals share many similar experiences — and often internalize these experiences in similar ways. You may be harder on yourself than anyone else, and choose to keep the stress, pressure and emotional distress to yourself. Without adequate management, these feelings can build to the point of feeling unbearable.
But there is hope. If you are feeling hopeless, trapped or experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s vital that you reach out.
You may feel hesitant to talk to someone, or worry that you are taking a professional risk to do so, but we encourage you to overcome this barrier. There are safe, confidential ways to talk about what you’re struggling with. From 24/7 hotlines to peer support, there are people who understand what you’re going through, and are ready to listen.
Some barriers are helpful. Firebreaks can stop or greatly impede a raging fire, saving lives. Sterile surgical environments provide life-saving barriers to infection. However, some barriers are dangerous, even deadly, and they need to be broken down. Stigma and fear of professional repercussions are such barriers.
You may avoid talking to someone or even confiding in a peer because you’re afraid they may lose confidence in you. Or you may feel that seeking support is a sign of weakness — after all, you’re in a problem-solving profession and handle a lot of stress. You may also worry about your career or fear risk to your license if you do reach out. These are barriers that can be overcome.
Seeking assistance signifies strength. You are already strong and the support you receive when you reach out will build on your strengths.
As a professional in fields like public safety and health care, you realize that it takes action to counter emergencies and solve problems. If you knew a colleague was in distress, you would want them to reach out to you. If you knew that a fellow physician or a fellow officer was considering taking their own life, you would do anything to help. You would support the person serving next to you — and they would do the same for you. Your life and the work you do in your community is invaluable. And there are many reasons to have hope.
There are also many avenues of support to choose from, including free, confidential and professional support options, as well as peer support resources.
NAMI is committed to preventing suicide and supporting frontline professionals. If you or someone you know is in crisis — whether they are considering suicide or not — please call or text the toll-free Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.
The Crisis Text Line also offers free 24/7 mental health support. Text “10-18” or “SCRUBS” to 741741 for help.
Safe Call Now is a confidential, comprehensive, 24-hour crisis referral service for all public safety employees, all emergency services personnel and their family members nationwide. Call 1-206-459-3020.