DOUGLAS COUNTY – First responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. Now, a Douglas County Detective is asking lawmakers for help.
The statistics are alarming. In 2017, there were 243 firefighter and police officer suicides across the country. By comparison, 222 firefighters and police officers were killed in the line of duty.
Douglas County Detective Dan Brite knows the physical pain that comes with the dangers of his job. He was shot while responding to a suicidal man with a gun in September of 2016. He knows the job’s emotional toll as well.
Detective Brite said, “Unfortunately, we are human beings like everybody else and we see the death and injuries on a daily basis and that takes a toll on us. You suck it up deal with it on your own you don’t ask for help.”
Detective Brite and his colleagues aren’t alone. According to Blue H.E.L.P., for the third straight year, police suicides outnumbered line of duty deaths. 145 officers were killed in the line of duty. 160 took their own lives.
There have already been eight law enforcement suicides so far this year. But the federal government does not require reporting for officer suicides, so those numbers may be even higher.
Detective Brite said, “So I am hoping to make it mandatory reporting with some confidentiality so we can get an idea of just how big of an issue this is in the us and on top of that, break the stigma that has been part of our profession for so long. You suck it up deal with it on your own you don’t ask for help.”
Detective Brite is now working on a bill with Senator Cory Gardner’s office to get better reporting and more help for first responders who are struggling.
He said, “It’s unfortunate 10 percent of agencies around the nation have any sort of suicide prevention program yet our ranks are riddled with PTSD. We need to start investing in first responders’ health, mental health, and I hope this bill starts pushing it in that direction.”
Cory Gardner reached out to FOX31, saying “Our office has spoken with Detective Brite and we are always looking for ways to better support the law enforcement community. Senator Gardner will continue examining this serious issue.”
He would like to see job protection for those who seek help.
He said, “The first step is to get the research done to see if it’s a viable solution and then push it forward either at state or federal level. We need a better understanding of mental health for first responders and some protections for the ones that do reach out for help, some job protections that have plagued our profession for so long.”