September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Nationwide, first responders are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. This week, we urged officers struggling with mental health challenges to seek help. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, State Senator Jay Collins and representatives from the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay joined me to highlight free resources available to first responders.
As the wife of a law enforcement officer, I understand the stigma officers may perceive when struggling with the unseen scars of their service. We have lost way too many of our bravest to suicide. In fact, more first responders take their own lives than die in the line of duty. Just this year, five Florida officers died by suicide—in contrast to three officers lost in the line of duty.
There are free resources for law enforcement officers struggling with their mental health issues, including the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s Hero Hope Line. This line now takes calls from first responders from 11 counties. The Hope Line has fielded more than 850 calls since January 2021. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s Last to Ask website received more than 18,000 visitors in that time, many from law enforcement.
Our officers put their lives on the line to protect us. They are courageous, and yet many may not be willing to seek help for themselves. None of our heroes should suffer in silence. Law enforcement officers in the 11 counties covered by the Hope Line can call 1-866-4FL-HERO or simply dial 211.
I urge anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts to please contact the Suicide Crisis Hotline by dialing 988—know that there are people out there that want to help.
By supporting the men and women who selflessly serve and ensuring they have the tools they need, we are building a Stronger, Safer Florida.