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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Event Aims to End Stigma Around Mental Health Issues of First Responders

James Donaldson notes: I am turning more and more of my time and efforts towards mental health issues, especially pertaining to our young people and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of depression and suicidal thoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle 

First responders have high-stress, emotionally taxing jobs, making them particularly at risk for suicide, and mental health experts are working to get them the care they need.

An event Monday in Concord was focused on first responders and mental illness. Derry firefighter Todd Donovan said he has suffered from depression most of his life and has attempted suicide several times.

With the help of his family, Donovan got the treatment he needed, and he now travels across the state to speak with first responders.

“First responders are three times more likely to die by suicide than by in-the-line-of-duty deaths,” he said.

The state fire academy hosted the event to discuss the stigma that surrounds mental illness and emphasize the importance of getting help.

“We want to be able to teach firefighters, EMTs and paramedics that their mental wellness is just as important as not getting caught in a building collapse or not being burned by fire or making sure they are safe on the roadways,” said Ann Duckless, community educator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Officials said suicide rates are increasing because of post-traumatic stress disorder. Experts said recognizing the signs and symptoms early can save someone’s life.

“We are losing too many lives because people are feeling disconnected, hopeless and lonely,” said Deborah Pendergast, director of the state Division of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services.

Duckless is working with other mental health workers to develop peer-to-peer support groups within fire departments. She said those groups would let first responders who are seeking help for mental illness confide in someone they trust.

Fire departments that are interested in learning more about the peer-to-peer programs are encouraged to call the fire academy in Concord.

Anyone who needs help can get immediate support from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255 or by visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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