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Suicide is the number one cause for death in firefighters, one local station is working to get those numbers down

Several Muskegon Co. stations are bringing awareness to these daunting statistics by wearing ‘The Yellow Rose’ shirts in support of mental health.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — September is suicide awareness month. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation reports that last year, 100 U.S. firefighters lost their lives to suicide. 13 ON YOUR SIDE spoke to one station today about their plan to get these numbers down.

The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance reports firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than working in the line of duty.

Several Muskegon County fire stations are hoping to bring awareness to these daunting statistics by wearing ‘The Yellow Rose’ t-shirts, promoting the importance of mental wellbeing.

“When you consider that the vehicle crashes, the highway incidents, the structure fires, all those things are dangerous. But when you can say that we are more likely to die from suicide than we are from line of duty deaths from those traumatic things, then that is a huge statement," said President of West Michigan Fire Chiefs Association Mark Cleveland.

Cleveland believes there is a stigma that surrounds first responders, making suicide numbers go up each year.

“The stigma being that we as firefighters, first responders, police officers, EMS, always think we have to be the tough guys or the macho guys," said Cleveland. "We don't have to take those attitudes that we are invincible. We're not superheroes, we heard the same. We're the same as every other individual out there.”

But he says there are programs in place like The Yellow Rose, which aim to provide mental health support for firefighters.

"The premise of The Yellow Rose campaign is to end that stigma and understand that when you're struggling you we are here for you and you have somebody to talk to,” said Cleveland.

While these programs are a great reminder to check in on a first responder, Cleveland says there is more work to be done.

“I think there needs to be more federal resources and state resources as far as funding and allocations put towards mental health awareness for first responders across the board. And honestly, I think there needs to be more resources and funding available for the general population as a whole," said Cleveland.

For now, he says they are doing things within their station to support one another.

“We try to stress that… they are number one, family is number two, and we should be number three,” said Cleveland.

The surrounding Muskegon stations will continue to wear the shirts throughout the month of September.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts know there is help available. You can text or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.

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