I was reading about yet another police officer’s tragic suicide, and suddenly I was transported back in time. My brain sent me to the past, spiraling out of control with the memories of a previous suicide, one that was right in my own backyard.
He lived in the community that he worked so hard to protect. He seemed to have his life planned out. He was a husband, father, son, brother, and a friend to so many. He shared his plans for the future, for his retirement, and his hopes and dreams for his children.
Just like that, he was gone. One that we couldn’t save. Inexplicably, we became those people who are left behind with endless questions.
Why didn’t he come to me? . . . But I just talked to him yesterday! . . . He must have been in so much pain.
And the ultimate question of why.
It is the eternal lack of answers that causes the most anger. The void he left behind causes nearly all the heartache. It is the guilt that drives us even harder to help more people, as often as we can.
We all experience the trauma and stress from our jobs. There always seems to be a perception that if we disclose what troubles us, we will lose our jobs, our careers, and be labeled as “weak” or “crazy.”
We are trained to help suicidal people, but how can we adequately do that, when we failed to save one of our own? No one spotted the signs. Was it because they weren’t there, because we didn’t recognize them, or since we just didn’t want to see them?
All of this feeds the frenzy to make a difference, to KNOW that we have made a difference, and somehow push our feelings aside.
When we lose one of our own, how do we save ourselves? Mandatory counseling? Critical incident stress debriefing? Small group meetings?
What we have in place now isn’t working. I would be willing to try anything . . . anything to save a police officer, firefighter, paramedic or dispatcher from a final, life-ending decision. Wouldn’t you?
– Lara Bair