BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) -- According to a study commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation, police officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
"This is a tough guy job, that mentality of just suck it up and get over it has always been there," said Capt. Dennis Thurman of Rogers Fire Department.
Bentonville Police Department is aware of the statistics and wants to be proactive. Officer Gene Page has been working on creating a non-profit that will bridge the gap between all first responders and mental health.
"Initially we started a program, it's called the Resource Advocacy Program. That's been going on since about November," Mary Schulz, a social worker with the police department said. "So many of the officers and first responders are reaching out for additional resources in the community."
After popular demand, Schulz and Page created the new program called HEROES (Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Everyday Struggles).
"Our mission is to help all first responders receive the help and the care that they need. But not only for them, but for their families as well," Schulz said.
Officer Page said they are looking at this as a preventative measure.
Lawmakers are starting to pay attention to the mental health concerns of first responders, too.
Representative Jeff Williams (R), District 89, has started drafting legislation that will ensure access for first responders and dispatchers to adequate support and training in dealing with mental health issues.
"What I want to do is ensure that we are properly diagnosing it, that we are receiving treatment at the very beginning of the process. If we can get this thing early on and we can provide the treatment, and our officers our first responders can understand that this isn't a weakness, this is a sign of strength to show that you want to deal with something," Williams said.
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