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The Hidden Killer Plaguing Law Enforcement, First Responders, and Veterans

Suicide Prevention First Responders Cover

Concealed Coalition’s National Training Director Austin Davis contributed to this piece, drawing on over 30 years’ experience in law enforcement.

More than 20 veterans and active-duty military take their own lives every day in America. In fact, the suicide rate for this group is 1.5 times higher than that of the general population.

Think about that for a moment.

Twenty of our fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, and friends take their lives each day, leaving surviving families and friends in grief. And the rate is similar among law enforcement and first responders.

Each year, 180-250 first responders die by suicide. That’s nearly triple the number killed by criminals and double that of traffic crashes. In 2021, the number of reported suicides by first responders across the U.S. stood at 182 with a majority of these among law enforcement officers.

At Concealed Coalition, we want to be part of the solution by getting the word out and encouraging our members to think about – and openly discuss – this nationwide problem that affects more than just veterans and first responders.

First responders, veterans, and law enforcement
First responders, veterans, and law enforcement are at a higher than average risk of suicide. At Concealed Coalition, we’re striving to help break this pattern.

A Silent Struggle

Between 2000 and 2018, suicide rates in the United States jumped 30% overall, making it one of the country’s leading causes of death.

The men and women who serve our country in the military or who protect and care for Americans at home deal with traumatic events virtually every day. Believe me, every working officer has seen and dealt with too many events that are difficult or impossible to just “unsee.” First responders and veterans live with these events forever, and it can take a toll on mental health.

Veterans and first responders also have a higher likelihood of developing conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Numerous studies confirm this contributes to an elevated risk of suicide.

Helping Our Veterans & First Responders

So, what can we do as a community?

We can raise the subject. We can talk about it among friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. When we talk about it, we remove the stigma surrounding the problem.

Then we can discuss what we, as responsible gun owners, can do to help.

Safe storage of firearms
Have a plan to ensure that someone going through a tough time doesn’t have unsecured access to firearms.

Do your part to make sure that someone going through a tough time doesn’t have unsecured access to your firearms. Have the difficult conversation with a trusted friend, loved one, or counselor if they -or even you- are experiencing these thoughts and need help.

Create a crisis plan with other gun owners. What do I mean? Let me explain. My buddies and I have a “no questions asked” policy. At any time, one of us can call a friend who has agreed to safely store their weapon for a period of time. Suicide is often an impulsive act and allowing that moment to pass can be a tremendous help.

I believe we should also begin a nationwide conversation about the value in seeking professional help. Too many veterans and first responders avoid speaking with a professional about trauma, and that only makes the problem worse. In the coming weeks, you’ll hear more from us as we seek to help our brothers and sisters reduce the number of suicide deaths in among us.

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