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Recent reports highlight mental health struggles of first responders

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - October 28 is National First Responders Day, a day to honor the commitment of women and men in uniform in our communities and across the nation.

However, recent reports have highlighted the struggles these brave individuals may face in the line of duty.

According to a report from the U.S. Dept. of Health, some 30% of first responders have reported dealing with behavioral health conditions such as depression and PTSD.

The report says only about 20% of the general population report dealing with these same issues. 

“Our first responders have to see and hear things that the average person hopefully doesn’t have to see and hear about,” said Sgt. Lori Franklin of the Yuma Police Department. “It’s become more prevalent nowadays of let’s try to take care of the mental health of our first responders. And there’s lots of different ways that you can get help for it and hopefully, they recognize that they need the help and if you’re a friend, recognize that they need the help.”

The Employee Assistant Program offered by the City of Yuma is just one of those avenues of help to first responders.

Others include those offered in conjunction with the local Fraternal Order of Police.

But the struggles can sometimes become more serious.

The FBI said last year, 32 law enforcement officers committed suicide, while another nine had attempted suicide. The real number, however, may actually be much higher.

“That is a number made up of 23, 26 some-odd police departments, it’s not a complete representation,” said Al Eskanazy, founder of the Community Police Relations Foundation. “In prior years you had 200 and 300 officers committing suicide or attempting to.”

Eskanazy’s organization offers training to local law enforcement agencies on how to handle mental health issues with officers and provide them support they need, including a peer support program. 

He also said the mistrust of law enforcement and anti-police rhetoric in recent years has contributed to the mental health issues many officers and their families face. 

Eskanazy said the best way the community can support first responders is to smile and thank them for their service and attend functions like Coffee with Cop to get to know the officers who serve and protect their communities.

Another report said an overwhelming majority of Emergency Medical Service workers say they don’t get enough recovery time after responding to a traumatic event. 

“Being Fire and EMS, about 85% of what we do are medical calls,” said Capt. Dennis Gasrow of Yuma Fire Department. “We are a very busy department as many across the country are. And sometimes there’s some inadequate times to where we’re able to rest because we are expected to get back on the rigs and get on the next call.”

Gasrow said Yuma fire has a Critical Incident Stress Management Team, which pairs trained firefighters like himself with others who have responded to high-profile incidents, including those involving children, to offer support and follow-up care to make sure firefighters and EMTS are able to continue positively and effectively performed their duties after responding to traumatic incidents. 

Article Topic Follows: Yuma County

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Eddie McCoven

Eddie joined the KYMA team in October 2023 as a reporter. If you have story ideas or tips, email him at


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