#JamesDonaldson On #MentalHealth – We Must Prevent #Suicide & #MentalHealthCrises In Our #FirstResponders


State Representative

House Bill 1321, authored by State Rep. Victoria Garcia Wilburn (D-Fishers), would require annual, in-service #mentalhealth training for all #firstresponders. What follows is an op-ed written by Garcia Wilburn detailing her motivations and goals in passing HB 1321.

Our #firstresponders are among the bravest and most selfless members of our community here in House District 32, and I consider it my duty as state representative to support them with the resources they need to get the job done. But unfortunately, being the first person to run into a fire, active shooter situation or another emergency comes with a #psychological toll.

Our first responders’ #mentalhealth is often overlooked because these positions are inherently recognized to be held by strong-minded and fearless people, and so we forget that underneath every uniform is a person. What they see through their eyes and experience in the field should not be minimized simply because it is a part of the job. Additionally, #stigma, lack of resources and research have all been cited as long-time barriers for #firstresponders to seek #mentalhealthtreatment.

Unfortunately, this #stigma has claimed the lives of too many #firstresponders. A study from 2018 found that more #policeofficers and firefighters die by #suicide than in the line of duty. For #firefighters, the risk of #suicide is 10 times more likely than that of the general population. These heroes stare down #trauma and horrifying acts on a daily basis in the line of duty. As a result, they’re more vulnerable to #PTSD, #depression, suicidality and other #mental and #behavioralhealth conditions.

#James Donaldson notes:
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students 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 #suicidalthoughts 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.

Order your copy of James Donaldson’s latest book,
From The Verge of Suicide to a Life of Purpose and Joy


A bill I’ve authored, House Bill 1321, will begin to address this silent epidemic in our community and across the state. It’s an opportunity for Indiana to lead, to serve as an example of how to address #firstresponder #mentalhealth in an evidence-based manner.

This bill will require annual in-service virtual training to all #firstresponders, including the professions of law enforcement, full-time professional #firefighters and EMS. The training will address #mentalhealth and wellness and #suicideprevention. This resource will not only preserve anonymity, but help deal with thoughts of #suicide, #trauma and other #mental or emotional obstacles in order to reduce #stress and #anxiety.

“We see you, we hear you, you are not alone.” This is the message that Karie Phelps, the wife of a medically retired #policeofficer who developed #PTSD during his law enforcement career, has for Hoosier #firstresponders.

“Would Jeff be in the same place if this training would have been available? We will never know,” Phelps said in her testimony in support of HB 1321. “I can’t believe he would be. If he had the proper knowledge of how to deal with traumatic and critical events from the beginning of his career instead of the mentality of just stuffing it and not processing the feelings and emotions, until the ‘stuff it’ bucket was full and starts to overflow with all the past #traumas.”

Phelps is a founder of Behind Thin Lines, an organization that connects law enforcement officers with the right #mentalhealthtreatment that is needed on their individual basis.

“Knowledge is power!” Phelps concluded. “So let’s give our #firstresponders the power to deal and cope with their day to day #trauma and critical incidents.”

This crisis is personal to me, too. My husband is a retired law enforcement officer, so I know how important #firstresponder #mentalhealth is firsthand. I want to see that each and every first responder is met, supported and heard.

The #mentalhealthcrisis some heroes live through is clear to me, and nobody should feel alone or afraid. I am committed, as your state representative and wife of a retired law enforcement officer, to provide a space to foster healthy relationships and make positive steps towards a peaceful life for #firstresponders who are our neighbors, loved ones and friends.

We have an ethical responsibility to take care of the people who take care of us – and this bill is one way to make positive strides toward that goal. This legislation is on its way to being considered by the Senate after a unanimous vote out of the House. I will continue to champion this bill until it’s signed into law.