Life was easier when my friend and colleague Chris Marella (4th Shift Fitness) was studying for the Lt’s examination. He was quiet then. Distracted with studying. Dare I say…. docile???
Things are different now. His mind never stops running and I receive almost daily messages about things we should be doing. A few weeks ago, is a good example. Within a few hundred texts and 15 minutes we’d brainstormed an initiative to help bring awareness to the plight of Firefighter and EMS suicide.
If you’re a civilian, you probably don’t know and even if you’re a firefighter, you might not know this: more firefighters die each year by their own hand than by all other line of duty deaths (LODDs) combined. So far in 2019, 98 firefighters and 16 EMS personnel have taken their lives.
This is heartbreaking as these individuals pledged an oath to protect the lives and property of the civilians they serve. But who is watching out for these men and woman?
#DevoteDecember is a month dedicated to honoring those who have taken their own lives and to bringing awareness to the ongoing risk of Fire and EMS suicide.
During December, Chris and I will be cleverly integrating the number 114 into our own training sessions. We strongly believe that everyone should be following a program for their training, so we will NOT be providing workouts of the day (WODs). We challenge every one of you to also honor the 114 by integrating it into your own training. You might finish your session with 114 jump rope reps. Or climb 114 floors on the step mill. Maybe you’ll meditate for 114 seconds prior to commencing your session? Maybe you’ll ride 114 miles on your road bike at some point during the month.
Whatever you do, we’d love to hear about it. Our main platform is Instagram, but we’ll also be posting to Facebook. When you complete your 114, please tag both of us and use the hashtag #DevoteDecember. Information on our accounts will appear at the very end of this blog.
We also regret to inform you that the number will likely climb. We follow the suicides validated by the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance and will update the number accordingly. You should know that the stats are likely under-reported by around 40%.
Want to do more?
1) Reach out to your friends and family that are Firefighters or EMS personnel. Let them know that you care and stand ready to support them. During gatherings, avoid asking “what’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?” and instead ask “what is the best part about your job?” or “what is the coolest thing that’s happened to you this year?”
2) Share this initiative with at least one person. Both Chris and I have IGTV stories on Instagram and videos on Facebook that you can share to your feed or your story. Will you challenge yourself to share with at least one other person?
3) Mental health is closely tied to physical health, so as much as we appreciate you dropping off cookies, cakes and other baked goods, just know that every other person in town has done the same. If you want to express gratitude, a card or a smile is enough. If you feel you must bring something, make it a healthy option such as a veggie tray or fruit basket. We put our lives in danger every day, but one of the most dangerous places for us is the roadway. Driving with extreme caution around accident scenes is far more appreciated than a plate of cookies.
4) Sign up for the 2nd Annual Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Symposium to be held February 20 and 21st in Naperville Illinois. There, you’ll hear national and international speakers (including AZ and Chris) speak about firefighter mental health, suicide and ways to address the issue. You can sign up at https://www.ilffps.org/symposium/
Chris and I are standing shoulder to shoulder to erase the stigma of asking for mental health assistance and to dedicating this month to the fallen. Will you stand and fight with us?
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
IL Peer Support: 855-90-SUPPORT or https://www.ilffps.org/contact