A few days ago, Fox 13 ran a story that was shocking and sad.
It was reported that in 2017, 243 police officers, deputies, and firefighters committed suicide. That’s more than perished in the line of duty. In Tampa Bay, we’ve lost 4 first responders to suicide since September.
The tragedy has brought to light the challenges first responders take home with them each and every day, and the last effect those challenges have.
“They see things that none of us really ever want to see or have to experience. So to know that they’re going from call to call to call that can really add up and take such a huge toll on them,” said Clara Reynolds, CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
Those of us who aren’t on the front lines have no idea what they endure for our safety. This morning, two first responders in Hillsborough County saved a young 20-year-old woman who had been run off the road on I-4 near 301 and ended up upside down in a deep, water-filled ditch. They save her life. They’re heroes. But take a moment to really hear what the Sheriff’s Department said in response to their heroism.
“They knew the girl was drowning and they were desperate to find her. Imagine you’re hearing this on the radio, it’s foggy and you can’t find her … that kind of pressure, that kind of stress, was intense.”
Just imagine. We can’t. But it’s something these men and women live every day.
We need to do something. We can’t imagine the trauma they witness each and every day of their lives on duty for us. We don’t know because most of the work they do is behind the scenes and not reported. Even if it were reported it wouldn’t reduce the stress and trauma they experience.
We can’t change their circumstances or the environment in which they work. But we can do something. Next time, you see a cop, or a firefighter, or an EMT in a restaurant, a coffee shop, at the grocery store, thank them. Tell them you appreciate what they do. Tell them they are an indispensable part of our community and you thank them for their service. Who knows, they may think of your words before they do damage to themselves. That’s a New Year’s resolution we can all keep.