Suicides left more officers and firefighters dead last year than all line-of-duty deaths combined — a jarring statistic that continues to plague first responders but garners little attention.
A new study by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization that works for the rights of people with disabilities, looked at depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues affecting first responders and the rates of suicide in departments nationwide.
The group found that while suicide has been an ingrained issue for years, very little has been done to address it even though first responders have PTSD and depression at a level five times that of civilians.
Last year, 103 firefighters and 140 police officers committed suicide, whereas 93 firefighters and 129 officers died in the line of duty, which includes everything from being fatally shot, stabbed, drowning or dying in a car accident while on the job.
Miriam Heyman, one of the co-authors of the study, told USA Today the numbers of suicide are extremely under-reported, while other more high-profile deaths make headlines. There were 46 officers who died after being fatally shot on the job in 2017, nearly 67% less than the number of suicides.