North Myrtle Beach training addresses suicide rates in first responders

Policeman, EMT workers, firefighters, and medics gather to learn how to break the stigma associated with suicide. (Image Source: News13's Taylor Herlong)

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, according to Captain Dena Ali, City of Raleigh Fire Department.

Captain Ali is hosting suicide prevention training for first responders in North Myrtle Beach over the course of three days. The goal is to help save the lives of those responsible for saving others every day.

Stress of the job for firefighters, EMT workers, and medics, partnered with the gruesome details of what they see responding to calls, can take a toll on the workers mentally.

“When we’re called somewhere, it is the person who’s calling worst possible scenario that they could ever be in,” says North Myrtle Beach firefighter and EMT Josh Beck.

Beck has been an emergency responder for 13 years.

“We see on any given day, we could see some pretty terrible things that nobody really needs to see,” describes Beck.

Being one of the first to respond to tragedies – car crashes, house fires, traumatic injuries – is hard to shrug off at the end of the day.

“There are things that I don’t need my wife and son to hear about or know about or anything like that,” admits Beck.

Captain Ali teaches the course and says firefighters are three times more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.

“Firefighters, emergency management personnel, police officers, they felt a responsibility to be strong and tough. When people are having emotional problems, when people are faced with crisis, they call us,” says Captain Ali. “We have to be strong, we have to able to respond, we have to be able to help them. When we ourselves are facing crisis or dealing with an emotional problem, we are afraid to share that.”

Ali says the course is far from just warning first responders of the red flags associated with suicidal thoughts. Ali’s job is to break down the stigma associated with suicide, help first responders learn ways to deal with what they see on the job, and highlight that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

“It is a deep subject. It’s an uncomfortable subject. So, starting the conversation is simply bringing awareness, talking about the statistics and then talking about prevention mechanisms,” admits Ali.

Beck says that stigma is very real in departments around the U.S., and in order to prevent another death, they all have to look out for one another.

“With firefighter suicide, you’re immediately perceived as weak or something like that. The negative connotations that go with it, it’s something that societally we have to change, and then also within the departments, we have to change,” urges Beck. “The change is going to start with us.”

Anyone is invited to attend the meetings, especially EMS crews, police, dispatchers and other first responders. All meetings are at North Myrtle Beach City Hall, located at 1018 2nd Ave South. Remaining meeting times are below:

Class # 4: March 16th 7-9pm
Class # 5: March 17th 3-5pm
Class # 6: March 17th 7-9pm