Suicide in the emergency services is more prevalent than in the general population.
- Public safety personnel are 5 times more likely to suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression than their civilian counterparts, leading to higher rates of suicide.
- More first responders die of suicide than in the line of duty each year.
These statistics are from a May 2022 Ruderman Family Foundation report. The Foundation’s 2018 white paper also had the same findings.
Resources for emergency responders
In 2022, several new programs and resources are available help address the issue of emergency responder suicide:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a 3-digit hotline number: 988. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) created a 988 Partner Toolkit for consistent messaging about how the new hotline will work. The lifeline can still be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Extended Public Safety Officers’ benefits
The Public Safety Officer Support Act was signed into law, expanding the death and disability benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program. The law recognizes first responder work-related suicides as line-of-duty deaths and now extends benefits to the families of first responders who die by suicide and to responders who have been disabled by traumatic experiences like mass shootings or mass casualty incidents.
Wildland firefighter messaging
In recognition of Suicide Prevention Week, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s (NWCG’s) Mental Health Subcommittee released messaging to support wildland firefighter health and well-being. The messages encourage learning new ways for maintaining mental health and wellness.
Directory of behavioral health professionals
The National Volunteer Fire Council’s (NVFC’s) Share the Load Support Program for fire and EMS offers a continually updated directory of behavioral health professionals. These professionals are vetted by the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA) as either having firsthand experience with the fire and emergency services or who have completed a training course through the FBHA to educate them on specific challenges faced by the fire service. Additionally, the NVFC course, “Preventing and Coping with Suicide in the Fire and Emergency Services,” is available (free of charge for NVFC members).