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Colorado first responders die by suicide three times more often than in the line of duty

A statewide study of first responder deaths found 196 suicides between 2004 and 2014 in Colorado. That’s three times the number of lives lost in the line of duty.

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office shared some sad news on Facebook late last week. A Sergeant who served his country and community for more than 21 years lost his life to suicide. 

While tragic, it’s not all that uncommon.

The Denver Department of Public Safety said a statewide study of first responder deaths found that there were 196 suicides between 2004 and 2014. That’s three times the number of lives lost in the line of duty.

“It’s happening because they have such an instinct to take care of others. And their instinct is that they never want to appear weak,” said Dr. Sara Metz, a police and public safety psychologist with Code-4 Counseling. “There’s been a stigma in law enforcement for generations that to seek mental health or to admit that you’re struggling would be considered a weakness.”

Metz travels to departments across Colorado to offer counseling, part of a culture shift that’s happening within agencies. She’s starting to see department leaders take advantage of counseling which inspires others to do the same.

We created a video, it's different agencies all showing up to the table and they’re leading the conversation. They’re talking openly about their experiences and these are really well-respected responders in their agency, having the conversation publicly, on film so they can show the people they care about that it’s ok to talk about it,” said Metz.

“The endgame for me is that responders start to see mental health as simply something they do consistently to take care of themselves every day, every week through their whole career. They involve their families in that. They talk openly about it in their agencies and they don’t shame themselves for it. It’s simply a part of overall health.”

You can watch an extended interview with Dr. Sara Metz here:

For a list of mental health providers for first responders go to: https://responderstrong.org/category/resources/

RELATED | Mental health resources for Colorado residents

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