The importance of suicide prevention awareness

This month, organizations around the country are recognizing National Suicide Prevention Month. Sadly, for many of us, it is also a time to remember our colleagues, friends or family members who took their own lives, such as EMT, firefighter and emergency telecommunicator Isaac “Skippy” Greenlaw. EMS cartoonist Steve Berry, best known for his often humorous, always insightful illustrations, used words rather than pictures to share his raw emotions after his friend’s death. Reading his message reinforced for me how important this issue is. We have made much progress in our profession toward addressing the stigma of mental health issues, but we have a long way to go.

It is imperative that EMS leaders take steps to prevent more unnecessary lives lost. We need to know the warning signs so we can recognize them in ourselves, our peers and our employees. Managers must foster a culture where people are not afraid to step forward and seek help or express concern. Research efforts, such as this recently published study out of Arizona, are also critical to gaining a better understanding of the scope of the issue and finding evidence-based ways to prevent and treat mental health problems.

We must make this a priority. Below are links to just some of the resources out there. And if you need immediate help for yourself, a family member or a colleague, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

NAEMT EMS Mental Health Initiative
NEMSMA Mental Health and Stress Paper 
Code Green Campaign


Best Regards,

Jay FitchPhD
Founding Partner, Fitch & Associates