September is suicide awareness month and September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. It is important to commemorate such a time because that is how we bring attention to a serious issue. In 2020, 184 people completed suicide in Saskatchewan, 41 of them being between the ages of 20 and 29 years old. And it would not be a stretch to realize a great number of those 184 would be first responders dealing with the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
It is difficult for those in positions of authority to admit they are having difficulty with their mental health. Especially since having such issues known can have a negative affect on their career even though knowledge about such issues could enable them to be more effective in how they accomplish their duties. Once a frontline protector or first responder is able to once again provide focus on their duties, they are then able to become symbols of hope and resilience:
1. Acknowledging the Struggle:
First responders are often seen as the embodiment of strength and resilience. However, it's essential to recognize that they are not immune to the mental and emotional toll their jobs can take. The constant exposure to trauma, the pressure to perform under extreme circumstances, and the burden of carrying the weight of others' lives on their shoulders can lead to overwhelming stress, anxiety, and depression. It's okay to admit that you're struggling; it's a sign of courage, not weakness.
2. Seeking Help is a Sign of Strength:
As a first responder, seeking help might seem like an admission of vulnerability, but it's quite the opposite. It takes immense strength to acknowledge when you need assistance and to reach out for support. Whether it's talking to a therapist, a peer support group, or a trusted friend, opening up about your struggles can be the first step toward healing.
3. Prioritizing Self-Care:
Just as you diligently care for the well-being of others, it's crucial to prioritize self-care. This includes not only physical health but also mental and emotional well-being. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and quality sleep are foundational, but also remember the importance of hobbies, relaxation, and time with loved ones. Take breaks when needed; you deserve them.
4. Breaking the Stigma:
One of the most significant obstacles to addressing the issue of suicide among first responders is the stigma surrounding mental health. It's time to break down these barriers and normalize conversations about mental well-being. By sharing your experiences and encouraging your colleagues to do the same, you can help create a culture where seeking help is seen as a sign of strength, not weakness.
5. Embracing Hope and Resilience:
You chose a career that embodies courage and resilience. Despite the darkness that may sometimes cloud your path, remember that you are not alone in your journey. Thousands of first responders have faced similar challenges and emerged stronger. Your life is worth living, and there is hope even in the darkest moments.
To our brave first responders, you are the people that society depends on. But you are also human, with your own struggles and vulnerabilities. By acknowledging your challenges, seeking help when needed, and prioritizing self-care, you can overcome the darkness that may surround you. Together, we can break the stigma, promote mental well-being, and ensure that our first responders not only save lives but also cherish their own. Your journey is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and your story can be a beacon of hope for others facing similar battles. Remember, there is a community that cares for you, and a future filled with light and purpose waiting for you to embrace. You are not alone, and your life is precious.