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First responders and suicide

Deadly fires, tragic shootings, terrible weather events.

Like their name says, first responders are the first ones to arrive on the scene and the images they see can burn in to their minds for years to come.

The CDC reports more first responders commit suicide each year than die in the line of duty. In this KHQA exclusive we take a closer look at how many first responders are fighting an internal struggle from what they see on the job.

"Not that we necessarily have a problem locally here but it is happening and one of those reasons is because as a society, we don't talk and interact as much as we used to," said Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning.

QMG Behavioral Health Therapist Marcus Hurt says repeat exposure to trauma can greatly affect a first responder's mental health.

"That first exposure is usually bad but having to constantly see these terrible things over and over, will eventually break somebody down," Hurt said.

"It's hard you know I've been on the department 25 years and dealt with those. The commanders on the scene have dealt with those before. It's the younger guys, not that they're the only ones impacted but it's definitely the younger ones that may have not dealt with that situation before you really want to keep an eye on," Henning said.

Hurt encourages first responders to seek help.

"If you feel like 'I can handle it on my own and I can handle it well' just do an inward assessment and make sure that you're not compensating that you're not allowing yourself to put yourself or somebody else in jeopardy because you're afraid of asking somebody to help you or to seek a professional," Hurt said.

That's why many departments have a debriefing after a tragic event.

"They need the opportunity to talk so that's why these debriefings are so critical because they have a chance to sit down and express their feelings and talk about what they saw and how that's impacted them," Henning explained.

"Eventually everybody has a weight limit and when that limit breaks, they're going to need some support," Hurt said.

If you need help or know someone who is having a difficult time call 1-800-273-8255.

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