Remembering Tim Casey: Your Work on Earth is Done

by Peggy Sweeney

I know your life
On earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren’t afraid to face the devil
You were no stranger to the rain

Oh, how we cried the day you left us
We gathered round your grave to grieve
~ Go Rest On the Mountain lyrics, Vince Gill

Tim-CaseyAlthough Tim Casey and I had never met in person, we had a long-standing friendship through emails and phone calls. Several years ago, I received his first email. He had attached an article he wrote about his struggles as a firefighter; the nightmares, his addiction to alcohol, and his suicide attempt. He wanted to share his story in an effort to touch one firefighter, officer or other first responder who was struggling with these same demons. He felt it was his duty as someone in recovery to tell them “help is available”.

Thank you, Tim, for your friendship and your efforts to help your brothers and sisters. May you find peace, at last, on that mountain.

Tim took his own life during the summer of 2015. Continue reading “Remembering Tim Casey: Your Work on Earth is Done”

Who Helps Those That Help Us

by Steven Gerlang, EMT
Central Islip Hauppauge Volunteer Ambulance

Steven Gerlang
Steven Gerlang

Our emergency service workers; Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians: psychological well-being is often taken for granted and over looked. Studies have shown that there are roughly 18 to 20 members of our Emergency Services that take their own lives each day here in the United States (the exact amount is unknown as many of these deaths go down as “accidental overdoses” or “accidental weapon discharges”). More services should be offered to these individuals that we expect so much from. What can be done about it and why hasn’t the media stirred public outrage over these numbers? What causes these men and women to feel so isolated and alone that they decide to take their own lives?

The mental well-being of our nation’s first responders goes unnoticed and untreated: the media would rather keep us occupied with the circus of the current presidential debates; than the current growing suicide epidemic facing our nation’s bravest and finest. Why do we as a country look at mental illness as a taboo? We are one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to technology and medicine; yet we ignore or stigmatize those we entrust with public safety and security for seeking help after they have seen too much of humanities worst. This stigmatization in our country is one of the key reasons many of our first responders do not seek help for mental health issues they may experience from the traumas they experience; one of the fears they have is being ostracized by their co-workers or employers for asking for help. By being afraid to seek help, these brave men and woman are left feeling isolated, alone and helpless with their emotions. Continue reading “Who Helps Those That Help Us”

Survivors of Suicide

by Peggy Sweeney

Suicide is a serious topic that we rarely discuss. Yet, each year thousands of adults and children either attempt or complete suicide to resolve problems or put an end to emotional pain. As a result of their deaths, surviving family members and friends not only grieve but must cope with feelings of guilt and anger as well.

According to the American Association of Suicidolgy, statistics show that in 2014 approximately 42,773 people completed suicide [a minimal rate increase was seen from 2013 to 2014, continuing the recent rate increases after long-term trends of decline]. Suicide was the tenth leading cause of adult deaths in the United States; homicide ranked seventeenth. Specifically, more Americans kill themselves than are killed by others. 3.4 male deaths by suicide for each female death by suicide. An alarmingly high rate of suicide deaths was seen in young adults age 15-24 (second leading cause of death for this age group). Approximately 1,069,325 suicide attempts are made annually.

Survivors “know someone who died by suicide” and Suicide Loss Survivors are “those bereaved of suicide”. Research-based estimate suggests that for each death by suicide 147 people are exposed (6.3 million annually), and among those, 18 experience a major life disruption (1Cerel, 2015).

Continue reading “Survivors of Suicide”

Why is There Suicide in the Fire Service?

by Peggy Sweeney

Author’s Note: I address firefighters in this article, but the information provided applies to any and all emergency response and public safety professionals.

Peggy Sweeney
Peggy Sweeney

Suicide is a very serious topic that we rarely discuss. Each year, thousands of adults and children either attempt or complete suicide to resolve problems or put an end to emotional pain. As a result of their deaths, surviving family members and friends not only grieve, but must cope with feelings of guilt, anger, and the archaic stigma associated with suicide.

Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010 it was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 38,364 deaths.

Based on data about suicides in 16 National Violent Death Reporting System states in 2009, 33.3% of suicide descendents tested positive for alcohol, 23% for antidepressants, and 20.8% for opiates, including heroin and prescription pain killers.

Continue reading “Why is There Suicide in the Fire Service?”

Watching Out for Each Other (firefighter ptsd)

by Chris Sterricker, Firefighter/Paramedic
DuPage County, Illinois

Editor’s Note: Although Chris wrote this article in August 2012 about the movie theater bombing in Aurora, Colorado, I thought it was a very timely piece to share following the Boston Marathon tragedy on April 15, 2013. Continue reading “Watching Out for Each Other (firefighter ptsd)”