Suicide prevention awareness critical for public safety - especially during the holiday season

by Jason Porter - President, Public Sector and FirstNet Program at AT&T

Last year, our FirstNet® family lost one of our own to suicide. Since then, more public safety officers have continued to die by suicide.

This really brought home some of the struggles public safety faces. And it cemented our commitment to being part of the solution when it comes to responder safety, health, and wellness. About 85% of first responders have experienced symptoms attributed to mental health conditions. And first responders experience depression and PTSD at a rate of up to five times that of the general population.1

I know several people who have taken their lives – including Army, public safety, and personal connections. I often ask myself, “Is there something I could have done to prevent this tragedy? Did I miss a sign?”

Even those closest to the individual who contemplates, or commits suicide, are unaware of the degree of suffering they are facing. 

Increasing awareness

This is why suicide prevention awareness is critical.

As we move into the holiday season, stress levels increase, anxiety and depression get worse, and suicidal thoughts become more prevalent. You matter. We want you to reach out for help, just like you would tell someone else to call for help if they were in crisis.

One of our driving visions of FirstNet Health and Wellness is that caring is a critical component to building the FirstNet community. Caring for each other in our daily lives and with our customers, is just something we do as an organization. Caring is a part of how we interact with our communities. Caring is a part of how we think about our public safety partners.

It’s not surprising that one of our core values as a company is to “Be There” for each other, our customers, and our communities.  

Caring

Caring about why people struggle with mental illness is part of that commitment to being there.  Caring enough to say something and do something when we are concerned about the mental wellness of those we work with, know and love. Caring goes hand in hand with all that we do.  That’s why I want you to know that I care about you, I care about public safety, and I want to address the issue of suicide prevention, together as a team.

From my Army experience, we believe in never leaving a soldier behind. Our effort with suicide prevention is to ensure that no one in our valued FirstNet family of customers is left behind.

There are some things we CAN do about suicide.

  • If you or a close loved one is struggling, please reach out. If you don’t know where to start, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). They have a network of providers across the country who provide crisis counseling. We include hotlines to help public safety as a part of FirstNet.com. Reach out to the COPLine, Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Crisis Text Line, or Safe Call Now to get the help you need. No matter what, reach out and get help. Your life matters.

  • If you are concerned about what to do or how to handle suicide-related issues, a great first step is gatekeeper training. The QPR model – which stands for Question, Persuade and Refer – is an easy, evidence-based and effective model for anyone to learn. For example:

    • Question – Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they need help or if they are feeling suicidal

    • Persuade – Persuade the individual to get help. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness

    • Refer – Refer the person to resources. It’s okay to give someone who needs help the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, the number to a therapist or connect them to a member of the clergy.

    • The key is to help that individual actually connect with a resource to help them.

    • You can learn more about QPR training here.

    • We are a proud sponsor of the Blue Help organization who first stood up to do something about first responder suicide. There are a number of training, helping, and professional resources available through their organization to help you make suicide prevention a part of your organization as well.

Dr. Stephen Trzeciak and Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli present compelling evidence in their book Compassionomics that caring makes a difference.

We believe that at the heart of our program is the commitment to live the AT&T value of #BeThere for each other, for our communities, and for our customers. We believe that if we care about people committing suicide, we can help prevent suicide. This holiday season, your life is the greatest gift to others, please take care of it.

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