Sunday, August 12, 2012

Police and Firefighter Suicides; Getting Help For First Responders.

Police, Firefighters and Dispatchers can get quality psychological help in the Chicago and suburban Chicago area.  Psychological help for Chicago area Police, Firefighters and Dispatchers is almost always covered by major insurance carriers with very little "out of pocket" expense.

I work as both a police psychologist and as a psychologist to Police Officers, Firefighters and dispatchers.  Sometimes I'm a first responder and sometimes I ride a desk back in the station; it depends on the type of call and if I'm in the station or on the road in a squad when it comes in.  I work inside the system but I am not the system; I am independent from the system.

It is estimated that 12 out of every 100,000 people kill themselves in the USA each year.  Breaking down the statistics further reveals that approximately 18 out of every 100,000 police or firefighters take their life each year.  By way of comparison it estimated that 33 out of every 100,000 military members take their lives and that 36 out of every 100,000 prison and jail inmates takes their lives.

Here in the Chicago and the Northern Illinois suburbs it is hard to reach out to find quality psychological help for first responders.  Most departments have EAP's as a first response to emotional and behavioral issues but concerns remain involving confidentiality and quality.  EAP's work for the department and not the individual first responder and they are often minimally educated and entry level practitioners at best.  Once emotional or behavioral issues rise to the level of supervisory intervention (because help has not been found), the issue of fitness for duty arises and potentially a job is then on the line.

Family's and friends try to reach out and often there is some success.  Most of the police or firefighters in my practice are getting the help they need because of concerned friends or family that did reach out.  No formal interventions, just straight out communications about the concern and a business card of mine or my telephone number.

Roughly half of my first responder clients called me themselves and came by themselves to their first appointment.  The other half had spouses or other family members who wanted help on how to approach the one they cared about.  They sought me out because they knew I was inside the system and know the culture but that I am also outside the system in that I work for my clients and not their employer's.

The choice really is yours.  First Responder, spouse or friend?  Pick up the phone (my direct number is on my website) and call me.  Just what is it you are waiting for?  Things to get worse or the Hail Mary occurrence that makes it all better?  The latter would be great but the former is the norm.

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