Blue H.E.L.P. https://bluehelp.org/ Honor. Educate. Lead. Prevent. Thu, 19 Aug 2021 01:31:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://bluehelp.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/cropped-BLUEHELP_PNG_resized-32x32.png Blue H.E.L.P. https://bluehelp.org/ 32 32 Thoughts on Beginning School https://bluehelp.org/school/ Tue, 17 Aug 2021 23:38:05 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=13796 This is the smile I miss on my little boy.

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“Mom, I don’t want to have to wait to see Daddy again… Mom, I don’t want to wait till I’m 90 to see Daddy again! I want to see him…..”

These words sting. These words hurt. These words cut deep! With tears in his eyes, these were the words my little one said to me right before falling asleep.

I immediately wrapped my arms around him and held him for a moment. I heard my little one express words that I never, ever expected to hear him say, definitely not at such a young age. My heart broke. Broke for a little boy that wishes to see his Daddy one more time. A boy whose whole world revolved around spending time with his Daddy. A boy that just can’t seem to make sense of the events that changed his life forever. The shattered pieces of my heart quickly pulled together with one thing …HOPE… the words he said hurt, but if I really listened there was hope in the words he spoke. Hope in the promise that Our God gives. A hope that this little boy believes in and holds tight to. Hope that one day this little one would see Daddy again.

Nights like tonight are the ones no one but the two of us see. Nights like tonight happen more often than not. Some nights it’s looking through pictures because he doesn’t want to forget. Other nights it’s sharing things he and his Daddy enjoyed doing together to help ease some of the hurt. Many nights it’s trying to get out questions that have no answers, or feelings that he can’t quite make sense of.

Tonight, as my little one slept next to me, tears streamed down my face. I’ve heard over and over how resilient children are. Is this resiliency? Is my little one resilient? Can he really just bounce back from losing his Daddy and continue with his daily “stuff”?

As an adult, I’m learning to navigate a new life. A new me. Keeping thoughts together some days is a struggle. What once seemed very natural to do now seemed like a chore. Trying to remember where I was going. What was that thought I just had? What did he/she just say? All this my little one is expected to do every day, and he does! At least he tries…

Yes, he is involved in extracurricular activities after school. It’s what keeps him going. It’s what keeps him involved with others. It’s what keeps him connected with the real world. Doing these “extras” keeps him from constantly thinking of what life is not like anymore. But reality awaits as we begin to make our way home. A reality that he cannot run from.

So, yes, he does have time. He has time to get homework done. He has time to get studying and reading done. He has time for all these things and more. But this boy has had to work so hard all day to stay focused and alert in class that he can’t anymore. Homework at home is a battle. As he sits trying to get it done, I might find him with a picture of Daddy in front of him or tears streaming down his face. It’s here that I choose to work on loving my son. Loving him right where he is! It’s here that homework goes unfinished. Nightly reading takes a backseat. Everything stops…. he and I take some time to heal.

You see, tomorrow morning, this same little boy will wake up early and start a new day. He will put a smile on his face and try not to think about last night. He will sit through his classes and try not to lose focus on what is being taught so that hopefully he can remember it for tonight’s homework. Sometimes his thoughts may stray, and he needs to find a distraction from them…. sometimes that might get him in trouble. He will continue to smile and inside fall apart because he has disappointed his teachers. As he goes through his day, things remind him of his Daddy. Maybe it was something said, a song that quietly played in the background, a little detail in the assigned reading, or simply a thought that entered his thinking. A new concept or skill is being introduced today, but he’s already lost. He is lost in his thoughts.

Tonight, I wonder how many “Sammy’s” are sitting in our classrooms every day. How many are lost in their thoughts before even starting their school day? How many struggled the night before and didn’t get support or reassurance that tomorrow just might get better? How many of “our babies” are putting on a smile and just “making it” through the day?

Sally Fodge
Widow of Deputy Samuel Paul Fodge, Jr.

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I want to tell you… https://bluehelp.org/i-want-to-tell-you/ Tue, 29 Jun 2021 23:19:00 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=13435 My late husband was a police officer and he died by suicide. I want to tell you how his department did nothing but stand and watch me on my hands […]

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My late husband was a police officer and he died by suicide.

I want to tell you how his department did nothing but stand and watch me on my hands and knees screaming for them to help me, after I had found him.

I want to tell you how a noticeable amount of his colleagues skipped over and glared at me as I stood by my late husband’s casket.

I want to tell you how his chief didn’t wear his uniform to the funeral and has met me with silence every time I’ve reached out.

I want to tell you how I felt when I read that my marriage was blamed in the official police and autopsy reports.

I want to tell you that since the night he died, not a single officer has come over on their own to check on me.

I want to tell you how I did things I would never have thought of doing, to cope with the pain.

I want to tell you how I came to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore and almost lost myself.

I want to tell you I’m an isolated incident, but I can’t. There are a growing number of us who are blamed, shunned, dismissed and denied support by our husband’s departments throughout the nation. I’ve listened and met with many of them. Our grief is compounded because we not only lost our husbands, part of ourselves, but most of us are losing our family in blue all in the same day.

I want to tell you how little trust I now have in law enforcement or how triggered I get when seeing the uniform.

I want to tell you that I was assaulted in my house two years after my husband’s death but couldn’t even bring myself to file a report with his department.

I want to tell you so much more, but I’m scared you’ll sweep me under the rug just like the department did with me and my husband’s suicide.

But the last thing I want to tell you is even if you don’t listen, I will keep telling my story. I want better for the next LEO widow of suicide and I’m hoping the departments’ credibility can be restored with those families they have deeply hurt. I’m going to stay above the rug. We were their families, and it shouldn’t matter how they died…support should be given. My husband blamed the department in his suicide letter. The department blamed my marriage. I blame no one. Did you know my husband did everything possible to take care of me and my future before he left? He thought he was a burden and wanted better for me. Is this the “better” he was referring to? Would any of this have happened had he died any other way? Is this the kind of support you would want for your family after you are gone?

If you had the chance, what would you tell my late husband?

-Badge #1831’s Widow

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Listen https://bluehelp.org/listen/ Tue, 22 Jun 2021 22:33:32 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=13350 We have seen significant progress toward smashing the stigma of law enforcement mental health, but we have a long way to go.  Blue H.E.L.P.’s #IWillListen campaign works to improve how […]

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We have seen significant progress toward smashing the stigma of law enforcement mental health, but we have a long way to go.  Blue H.E.L.P.’s #IWillListen campaign works to improve how law enforcement officers demonstrate their willingness and commitment to listening to others.  Everyday we see an ever-increasing use of the hashtag by officers and family members in nearly every state.  But there is more to listening than providing space for others to speak. 

In this post I’ll share a story of a time I should have listened to the voice in my head telling me to get help and I should have listened to my friends and family who were encouraging me to get help.  Mine is not a story of mental health, but physical and cardiac health.  As Dr. Laura King reminds us in her book, Officer Safety Redefined, heart health is a significant risk to the safety of the law enforcement profession and a leading cause of death among active and retired officers.  Heart health is influenced by several factors such as genetics, exercise, diet, and STRESS.  While my health situation manifested as a physical condition it could have easily been a mental health condition I faced.  Mine is a cautionary tale. We’re not invincible.  

#IWillListen to Others

Actively Listen to others who have the courage to initiate a conversation.

This begins with being present in the moment.  When someone has the courage to confide in us, we need to be in the moment and give our full attention to them.  Don’t just listen, but HEAR every word being said. In the First HELP 3P Ready Workshops we teach the acronym “SLANT” to help remain present in the conversation.

  • S – Sit to stand up straight. This subtle change in body language sends the signal that we’re paying attention. Eliminate distractions, put the phone down and move away from the computer. 
  • L – Look at the other person and use eye contact to reassure them that you are present for the conversation.
  • A – Actively and Constructively Respond. Ensure that questions and comments build on the conversation.  We should be mindful that our tone of voice and word choice encourages the other person to continue to share.
  • N – Nod as appropriate.  A simple gesture such as a head nod or shake is an effective way to send a message to the speaker without interrupting them. 
  • T – TALK. Remember to remain present and engage in the conversation.    

Resist any urge you have to interrupt while they are speaking so you can hear and understand what they have to say to you.

Seek first to understand, then be understood. ~ Steven Covey

When someone brings a concern to us regarding our physical or mental health, we may feel an urge to justify or rationalize our behavior.  We must remember they are offering us a gift of their time and sharing an observation with us.  They have a perspective that we do not and may have seen some things we have not.  We should actively engage in a conversation with them to fully understand their perspective and then, if appropriate share ours with them. 

We need to take time daily to reflect and listen to our own needs both mentally and physically.

Over time, as others share their perspective with us we begin to evolve the perspective we have on a situation.  We may be tempted to silence the little voice in our heads telling us that something is wrong.  We can convince ourselves to push on just a little further.  Much like the fuel warning light on the dashboard, that voice is there for reason and ignoring it can have significant consequences. 

My Story and how I learned to say #IWillTalk

Recently, I neglected to listen to many issues my body was telling me.  I put the blinders on and intentionally ignored them. I knew something was wrong, but I was in denial. 

While on vacation, I knew I could not deny and ignore what my body was trying to tell me any longer.   We packed up the car and made the three-hour drive to Denver and I went to the ER.

While I was being triaged, the nurse asked me a list of symptoms they thought I may be feeling and the last symptom he asked me was “or denial”.   That was it.   I was in denial and failed to Listen and Hear what my body has been trying to tell me for a long time.

I ended up in the cardiac ICU and was asked why I waited so long. 

While laying in that bed in ICU with so many tubes hooked up to me, I had many thoughts going through my head: I’m too young for this to be happening to me.  What if I went to the Dr. when I first noticed these symptoms? 

While we have been making progress in mental health issues, we cannot ignore our body telling us that something is wrong.  Taking care of our physical health helps with taking care of our mental health and vice versa.  We owe it to ourselves and our families to LISTEN and HEAR everything our body is telling us. 

Our physical and mental health are deeply intertwined and when it comes to Heart Health among Law Enforcement Professionals nearly impossible to tell where they part ways. 

Everything related to our mental health and physical health needs our fullest attention!

#IWillTALK

As committed as we have been to listen it is time we make the same commitment to speaking up. Recently First HELP launched the #IWillTALK campaign to springboard off the #IWillListen Campaign and take the conversation to the next level.  We must remember that a profession fully committed to listening to each other is of no value to one that is unable to talk. 

Listen to the encouraging voices and then speak up – this world is better with you in it.

Brian Hill – Blue H.E.L.P. Advisory Board

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No One Is Coming, It Is Up To Us https://bluehelp.org/no-one-is-coming-it-is-up-to-us/ Fri, 28 May 2021 01:28:46 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=13257 The post No One Is Coming, It Is Up To Us appeared first on Blue H.E.L.P..

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We have a design for a 22-acre park and memorial. We’re ready. I sit here reading a social media post knowing this park and memorial has been the most significant public effort toward honoring the service of and sacrifices of those who died by suicide.  It will serve as a place of reverence for all the families who have been shunned or felt the sigma of losing a loved one to suicide.  It will be a public symbol to ensure society will never forget those we lost because we won’t let them.

We have told the story of how Blue H.E.L.P. was formed many times, but as I sit here and reflect on the organizations accomplishment and the events that put me in position to provide a small contribution, I remember very clearly the tough road that led us to this point.  Blue H.E.L.P. in its infancy reached out to national organizations looking for guidance on how to get the conversation started about mental health and suicide.  We were determined to help the families that had been left behind.  We were most often ignored or told they were not interested in helping.  The irony was not lost on us that many leading law enforcement organizations declined to speak about mental health and suicide. 

I remember we were told “you can’t do that”. We were still inexperienced in running a nonprofit and were too naive to realize they were probably right; so, we went ahead and did it. 

I remember we were told “you can’t say that”.  The problem was no one else was willing to say it so we provided written and verbal testimony that was often “too impassioned”, but that didn’t make it any less factual, so we said it.

I remember being told that the conversation around mental health in law enforcement was very political.  Fortunately, none of the founders had any political aspirations and that made us dangerous to those who do because we refused to talk in hushed tones about suicide.

I remember being told our individual reputations and careers could be damaged by the decision to continue down that path we were walking.  We discussed it, no one chose to leave, instead we decided to jog down the path on occasion.

I remember being told that law enforcement isn’t ready to change.  Unfortunately, we had already heard too many stories where our simple failure to change contributed to officer suicide and harmed the families.

I remember when the internal challenges of running the organization were just as difficult as the external ones.  We have grown with some and outgrown others and through it the organization stayed focused.

A few of us have cried, some of us lost sleep, most of us have used language that would make a sailor blush, but all of us gambled on an idea and each other.  I find myself regularly amazed that I have had the opportunity to be part of this organization’s history, and now this park.  I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most dedicated people from across the country.  We all knew intrinsically that no one was coming, and it was up to us.  Families, first responders, and supporters chose to work together to make real change.  These people are the type that inspire quotes like “I’m not a hero, but I have served in a company full of them.” (Major Dick Winters).  Blue H.E.L.P. looks forward to seeing some of them in September as we host our annual dinner and in the near future when we attend the grand opening of this park.

Jeffrey McGill
Chief Executive Officer
Co-Founder

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“Widow” https://bluehelp.org/widow/ Thu, 20 May 2021 01:06:19 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=13215 Until April 2009, I considered myself lucky to have not lost anyone close to me. Sadly, the loss of my Dad to leukemia was the start of an exceedingly difficult […]

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Until April 2009, I considered myself lucky to have not lost anyone close to me. Sadly, the loss of my Dad to leukemia was the start of an exceedingly difficult period of loss. He died only four weeks before my wedding. I then suffered the losses of my Grandpa, Grandma and Stepdad. The day my Stepdad died was the day my world came crashing down around me, it was September 23, 2014, the same day my husband, Officer Craig Majors, died by suicide. That day was my worst nightmare, and now, almost 7 years later at times I still can’t awaken.

At the age of 37, I became a widow with a 4-year-old to raise on my own. I didn’t know what to expect or how I was going to maneuver through life with the love of my life gone. The first year was very numbing, there was so much going on and so much to figure out that I don’t have time to truly grieve. With only one month of leave available, I knew I wouldn’t be ready to go back to my position as a dispatcher with the department Craig was employed. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the trauma I had suffered from 12 years as a dispatcher compounded by Craig’s suicide. Physically shaking at the thought of returning to work, I was terrified and suffering post traumatic stress, I knew that I would never be the same. Unable to return to dispatching, I was fortunate to secure a position at another division.

The second year was the hardest for me, I started to emerge from the numbness and all the feelings of loss, grief and horror came rushing at me. I honestly can say after all this time I don’t think I have really allowed myself to fully grieve; I’ve spent a lot of time pushing down my feelings despite knowing how unhealthy this is. I’ve tried counseling, but I never lasted long. We all have to find our path back to wholeness, but I’m not quite there yet.  

The strength everyone sees, it’s just a façade. Does anyone ever reveal their true self?  Does everyone really want to hear how sad I truly am? How much I struggle? I smile and tell people I’m fine, unthinkable tragedy has that effect on you. Support isn’t readily available, it’s uncomfortable for most people. It’s not their fault, it’s just human nature. True friends, they are a gift. We are lucky to have people who understand and accept our forever grief.  

My son is my distraction, everything I do and live for is him. Each day I get up and go to work knowing I am his only caretaker, our only source of income, and I must press on. After almost 7 years, there are still nights that I will cry myself to sleep because I miss Craig so much, the burden of our entire lives feels like it’s too much or I feel like I have failed so many times. It’s still an up and down roller coaster with a very steep incline.   

At times, I am shocked at comments and remarks regarding me being a young widow. Two weeks after Craig took his life it started; people said that because I was young, I would find love again or asked when I would start dating. It all felt so insensitive to me, I’m sure they didn’t have any ill intent when saying those things and they probably didn’t think before saying it. I wanted to scream, “Are you serious? I just buried my husband and I’m not even sure how I got here. The love of my life is gone I can’t possibly think about replacing him!” This is such a lonely road to travel at times, it’s been almost 7 years and haven’t dated anyone. I am still asked if I am dating or when I am going to. Sometimes I feel ready because I really miss companionship; other times I am not sure and keep up my well-built walls. Suicide left a lot of hurt, fear and mistrust, getting past that and allowing someone else into my life isn’t easy.  

I’m now a widow, I hate that word. I hate checking it off on forms. But I am not the only one affected, the day my husband took his life, he changed so many lives forever. My son no longer has his dad, his parents lost their son, his brothers lost a brother, and it trickles down from there. There will always be unanswered questions, “what if’s” and “if only’s” for which we’ll never have closure.

If you had told me when I got pregnant in 2009 that I would be raising my son alone, I would have laughed and said, “no way, that’s crazy talk”. That may be the hardest thing, my son losing his Dad. He was so young when it happened that I couldn’t even explain it to him, just that Daddy was in heaven.  At only 4, I knew he would not really remember his dad, lucky for him I am picture freak. We’ve got lots of scrapbooks for him to look at when he misses Dad or wants to remember the things we did together as a family. It breaks my heart that he has such few memories of his dad. Sadly, Craig was an alcoholic and suffered from depression that took so much control over him the last two years of his life he missed out on many family activities. 

When a child loses a parent, we can typically explain the loss. Suicide isn’t simple, there’s no way to prepare a child for that knowledge. There’s no way to prepare yourself to explain a parent suicide to a child or answer all their questions. That conversation happened so much earlier than I thought it would, I had convinced myself he wouldn’t ask too much before the age of 10, but the conversation happened at age 7.

This was an important conversation, I needed to be honest while preserving his feelings of self-worth and his love for his Dad. Telling him the truth was important a few reasons; we need to break the stigma and talk about mental health and suicide, Craig’s suicide was a very public incident and he needed to hear it from me, not the internet and most importantly, he deserves to know the truth. He deserves to know that his Dad was a good man, with real problems and he is not to be judged for his actions. We will always love Craig for the man he was until his demons won.

The loss of Craig is really hard for him, even though most of the time he doesn’t show it. Every birthday, school event and family vacation are difficult. There is always a missing piece, someone asking where his Dad is and milestones where he stands without a man at his side. He’s seen the stigma associated with Craig’s death and he understands the path before us will be uneven. I know that, too. I may not have completely accepted it yet, but I know it. I know that no matter what, I have to navigate being a “suicide widow” for the rest of my life. I know that I have to raise a beautiful young man to have the courage to be honest, seek help and love his Dad without judgement. Suicide doesn’t leave ease or grace; it leaves hurt and destruction. I know that I have to be the best I can be for him and give him the best life possible, no matter how difficult or challenging it will and can be.

Michelle Majors
Widow of Officer Craig Majors

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Not All Flags Are Equal https://bluehelp.org/not-all-flags-are-equal/ Fri, 14 May 2021 15:02:42 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=13189 This week is National Police Week and May 15th is National Peace Officers Memorial Day.  Families across this country have received a folded flag that once rested on a law enforcement […]

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This week is National Police Week and May 15th is National Peace Officers Memorial Day.  Families across this country have received a folded flag that once rested on a law enforcement officer’s casket.  I imagine they each go through a variety of feelings in the days, weeks, and months following the funeral.  As I sit here and look at the flag that was draped over my late husband’s casket, I cannot help but feel defeated, angry, sad, and lost. That flag is supposed to represent honor, courage and sacrifice of the officer and the family, but for me, this flag is a memorial of stigma and fear. 

When I close my eyes, I can remember the day that flag was folded and handed to me. It was a cold November morning and with a sea of blue uniforms surrounding me, the 21-gun salute sounded off.  The Marine’s folded the flag and the Chief of Police brought it to me. I remember each word he said, and I was certain I had yelled at him, “This is not happening, I do not want that flag”, but no words were coming out of my mouth. 

I held onto that flag that I never wanted for days after his service. I sat on the couch with the flag crying and struggled to make sense of what happened.  Why did this happen? How did this happen?  He had only been on the force for 5 and half years.  He was the beloved dancing cop. He was always smiling, laughing, and joking. He was my Batman; he was the one who fixed everything. He had his whole life and career ahead of him, at least on the outside. 

Inside he was fighting for his life, and he believed he could not ask for help.  Being a law enforcement officer was all my husband ever wanted, but the duties that came with it brought him to see things most cannot imagine.  He wouldn’t tell anyone because he may be seen as weak.  His mental stability would be questioned and his dream of being a cop would be stripped from him and that was something we had worked too damn hard to achieve.  I pleaded for him to get help from someone, anyone, but that was never an option for him.  I was his wife how could I not save him?  I blamed myself for not being strong enough to help him find his way back, but the truth is there was no way I could have saved him alone. 

In President Kennedy’s Proclamation establishing National Police Week and National Peace Officers Memorial Day it states, we recognize “the service given by the men and women who, night and day, protect us through enforcement of our laws” and “honor of those peace officers who, through their courageous deeds, have lost their lives or have become disabled in the performance of duty”.  My husband served night and day protecting us.  My husband performed courageous deeds.  He was a hero who served his community and made the ultimate sacrifice.  My husband lost his life due to performance of duty along with too many other law enforcement officers, but they too will not be included this week.  Why is my flag a reminder of fear, and suicide?  Why do some families who lose an officer to suicide not get a flag? When will we change it? 

Crystal Giles
Widow of Corporal Jonathan Giles

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How did I get here? https://bluehelp.org/how-did-i-get-here/ Sat, 08 May 2021 18:57:08 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=13177 Some have said, “it wasn’t your fault, it was the choice that he made.” But are they really sure? I may not have pulled the trigger, but I know somewhere […]

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Some have said, “it wasn’t your fault, it was the choice that he made.” But are they really sure? I may not have pulled the trigger, but I know somewhere I had to be the one that pushed him. I was the one that forced him to see the doctor. I made him seek help. Maybe if I didn’t reach out to the department or his family, he would still be alive. I was just so afraid of losing him, I thought I was doing everything to protect him. I received another message the other day, it stated his death was all my fault. The one before that said they hope I can’t sleep at night, and the next one said I should take my own life. They are right. 

Today is Thanksgiving, our favorite holiday. For the first time in all my life, the smell of love cooking in the oven isn’t there. My children are wonderful, they showered me with love and compassion today. But I don’t deserve it because I am the one responsible for this pain. My thoughts are racing, and I can’t think straight. I can’t focus on anything but the pain I have caused them, and how I have forever destroyed this day. I said to them “I have to get out the house for a little while, I need to clear my mind. I love you, I’ll be back in a little while, make sure you turn on the porch light.”

I’m sitting in the car, here in the park, with a loaded gun in my hand.  The demons that comforted Omar that night, have all introduced themselves to me as my friend. For the first time since Omar died, everything they are whispering to me make sense. I don’t want to kill myself, but I am unworthy of life and right now I deserve to die. My children do not deserve a mother like me, and I am unworthy of their love. They don’t need me, they deserve better, and I will make sure they have it. God I can’t handle this pain, the weight on my chest is smothering me and I feel like its caving in. The burning in my heart feels like its leaking into my stomach and I just want to cut them both out. I can’t see myself living the rest of my life in this type of pain, even though I know It’s my punishment. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I just keep repeating that dreadful day over and over again. Today is the day, that I accept my fate, and give my kids their freedom. So, if there is a God, because I question your existence right now, you have to step up and help me right now!

I’m parked in the most isolated area of the park, just waiting, waiting for these people to go home. Why are so many people at the park on Thanksgiving? In the meantime, I’ll just scream, and cry, as every memory replays over in my mind. The pain in my heart is overwhelming and I’m just waiting for the right time to die. Through all the negative thoughts that are cluttering my mind, there is a different voice reminding me to use my safety plan. My safety plan consists of a list of people to call if I should ever find myself in this dark place to long. What am I supposed to tell them, what am I supposed to say? Reaching out is completely out of my comfort zone, I don’t want to bother anyone, but I’ll try anyway. I call my friend, she’s the first person on my list. Unfortunately, she’s in the middle of dinner and will call me back later. Ok, I’ll try again. I call the next person on my list, no answer. I take this as confirmation that leaving this world is the right thing to do. 

I’m sitting here, staring at the lake, waiting for the next family to leave. What if someone notices me sitting here? I need to find a way to keep the attention off of me. If I’m on the phone, no one will ever notice. So, I call the last person on my call log.  She answered! I try to play it cool, as if everything is ok. She put two and two together and knew that I was in distress. She acknowledges that I am alone in a park, on Thanksgiving, just six months after my husband died by suicide. So, she stays with me on the phone. We talk over an hour, and now the park is completely dark, and all the people are gone. I don’t feel any better, in fact, I feel at ease with my decision. The noise in my mind is even louder this time and now I’m in position. At the exact moment that I’m squeezing the trigger, out of complete darkness, two children walk up and stand by my car window. They scared me! I look around and see their parents with a flashlight following right behind. I’m screaming and crying because I almost ruined another family’s life. Those babies would have saw everything! I cried myself to sleep, right here in the darkest, most isolated area of the park. I realize that I slept for over three hours, the longest that I have slept in days. I remove the mag from the gun, and that one bullet left in the chamber, I placed it in my pocket. Now it’s time to go home. Before I can step into my house, my little boy welcomes me with the tightest hug. He says, “mom thank you for coming home. I was scared you weren’t going to because your eyes look like my dad’s eyes. If you do that mom, then I’m going to do it too.” After holding him as tight as I could, we made a pinky promise to keep living.  

My family and I started therapy shortly after my husband, Deputy Homero Omar Calderon, died. I do believe that safety plan bought me some time. It’s been over two years since my experience in the park, and I can honestly say that it does get better. The journey is hard, and it does require some intentional hard work. The heaviness in my heart has lifted, and the weight on my shoulders is not quite as heavy. When you are in crisis everything that is wrong seems to be so right, and every negative thought feels valid. Do not give in to those thoughts. You will get through this moment, the pain will not last forever, it changes. You will also change. You are worthy of life and love. This journey is not meant for you to travel alone. Your healing will be one of the hardest things you will ever do for yourself. But you can and will get through it.  My family and I are still in therapy and I have found a renewed relationship with God. My faith and therapy have helped me throughout my journey, and you will find what helps you too. In the meantime, be kind to yourself, you are only human. Don’t give up, don’t give in, and most importantly, keep pushing through my friends.         

ShaRonda Young Calderon

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Suicide’s Unanswered Questions https://bluehelp.org/suicides-unanswered-questions/ Thu, 22 Apr 2021 01:16:01 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=13096 Everyone has a different experience. Mine is not exactly the same as anyone else’s, nor is it exactly different. I’m not a first responder so I didn’t face the same […]

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Everyone has a different experience. Mine is not exactly the same as anyone else’s, nor is it exactly different. I’m not a first responder so I didn’t face the same challenges, but I believe we can all learn something from each other. I don’t walk around and tell my story, it’s not a comfortable topic for people. I’m not ashamed, it’s part of who I am, I know when to talk about it and when I shouldn’t.

Oftentimes, families find out I’ve attempted suicide three times in a short period of time. They ask me about it. They ask me what their loved one was thinking at that moment. I can’t tell them; I can only tell them what I was going through. That is why I am sharing this, to give those of you who lost your loved one a little perspective. While it won’t answer all your questions, maybe it will answer some. For those of you who are where I have been, perhaps it will let you know that you are understood by many. You are not alone. You can learn to live again.

The things you have heard, been asked, and are now asking yourselves, have been heard and asked millions of times. All I can tell you is what I would have said had I been able to respond.

She’s a coward.

I don’t lack the courage to stay alive, I simply don’t know how to.

She tried to take the easy way out.

I’m scared. Scared that this is going to fail, that my mind will be trapped in a non-functioning body, or that people will hate me more. I am scared of staying alive because of how badly I feel right now. I am scared of death. No matter what happens, it’s not going to be easy.

Don’t tell anyone outside this family, this is no one’s business.

Are you ashamed of me needing help? How can I heal if I can’t tell anyone? How can I get help if you don’t want people to know? Why won’t you let me get help?

Why didn’t you ask for help?

I didn’t know how . I didn’t want people to think less of me. I was afraid. Mostly, I didn’t know how.

If she really wanted to be dead, she would be.

I tried. Three times in six months would indicate that I tried. I had even “escaped” from an inpatient facility to try again.  By the third time, I knew what to do. I had been asked what I took, how many and if I mixed them with other specific drugs. By the third time, thanks to the questions asked of me, I should have been dead. Instead, I was alive in the ICU.

Why would someone so pretty try to kill themselves?

Is that all you, see?                

She has everything going for her.

What I have and what I feel are two different things. What I need is help getting my head straight, nothing I have now can do that for me.

Doesn’t she know how much we love her?

No, I don’t. I can only hear the negative things I am telling myself, I’m not worthy of help. It’s really horrible inside my head.

Doesn’t she care about what is going to happen to her family?

They are going to be better off! They are not going to have to worry any more. They are not going to have to be ashamed anymore. I think this is for the best for everyone. But honestly, I’m not always thinking of them. I am thinking about how much this hurts and how I want to go away.

You were only doing this for attention.

Yes, you are right. I was doing it for attention. I was hoping someone would see how much pain I was in and help me. I was hoping that if I died, someone would see how much pain I was in and help someone else. So yes, I was doing this for attention.

Is she going to attempt suicide again?

I’m trying really hard not to. I recognize that trap door in my mind and when I am standing at its edge. I know how to step back. It’s still really uncomfortable, but I know how to ask for help. I know how to think past that moment of desperation.

How is she going to get her life back and recover from this?

A little at a time. With help. With understanding. By believing the people who say they love me. By accepting that being well mentally is hard work but I think I can do it. I have to try.

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Blue H.E.L.P. Joins F.B.I. in Implementation of the Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act https://bluehelp.org/blue-h-e-l-p-joins-f-b-i-in-implementation-of-the-law-enforcement-suicide-data-collection-act/ Fri, 05 Mar 2021 00:45:49 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=12733 Since 2016, Blue H.E.L.P. (Honor.  Educate. Lead. Prevent.) has been supporting the families of law enforcement officers lost to suicide.  It is the objective of Blue H.E.L.P.  to reduce mental […]

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Since 2016, Blue H.E.L.P. (Honor.  Educate. Lead. Prevent.) has been supporting the families of law enforcement officers lost to suicide.  It is the objective of Blue H.E.L.P.  to reduce mental health stigma and bring awareness to suicide and mental health issues impacting our law enforcement community.  Between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2020, Blue H.E.L.P. has recorded data on 919 suicides of police and corrections officers of all duty statuses.  For 2021, to date 19 incidents have been submitted to recognize the lives of those who serve our nation with valor. 

Because of the efforts of those individuals willing to submit this vital information, there has been a culture shift in Law Enforcement (LE).  Agencies and departments are starting to implement wellness programs and major national organizations have begun to further the mission Blue H.E.L.P. has established – reduce mental health stigma through education, advocate for benefits for those suffering from post-traumatic stress, acknowledge the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers we lost to suicide, support families after a suicide and to bring awareness to suicide and mental health issues.

Adding to the awareness Blue H.E.L.P. has strived to create, on June 16, 2020, the President of the United States signed Public Law 116-143, S. 2746, Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act (LESDCA).  The LESDCA mandates the establishment of the Law Enforcement Officers Suicide Data Collection and directs the Attorney General, through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to institute the new data collection to better understand and prevent suicides among current and past law enforcement officers of federal, state, local, and tribal agencies and will include corrections and 911 operators.  The collection is required to collect and report annually on law enforcement officer suicides and attempted suicides.  “Through this data collection, we are opening up many opportunities to address the mental health needs of our officers.  It gives me great joy in being able to tell an officer today, hold on a little bit longer, because change and help is here” said Sharonda Calderon, Blue H.E.L.P. Program Director and suicide widow.

This is the first time a government organization will monitor law enforcement suicide and attempted suicide, like the way data is collected on officers killed and assaulted.  Established under the FBI, the information will be comprised of data voluntarily submitted to the collection.  Families cannot self‑report on behalf of their loved ones.  Retired officers are included in the collection but are historically more difficult to track. 

To implement this project, the FBI has established a task force which includes Blue H.E.L.P., subject matter experts specializing in LE mental health and statistical collection and analysis, and other major law enforcement organizations.  This task force will assist in creating a data collection based on the requirements established within the legislation.  The task force will also assist in marketing and outreach and establishing data policy.  The collection tool, which will be piloted in June 2021, will be accessed by law enforcement organizations that have a valid Originating Agency Identifier Number.   A planned release for law enforcement contributions to the collection is scheduled for January 2022. 

This project offers the largest spotlight yet on law enforcement suicide.  The LESDCA provides a pathway for the future and, much-needed attention at the federal level, for an issue that has not received the funding, resources and support it has desperately needed for generations.  This is a monumental step forward in recognizing the emotional toll the job takes on an officer and, hope for families who have lost officers to suicide.  The hope is this legislation will provide much needed information and data to help prevent future suicides.

Although this effort has resulted in success, meaningful action which has not received deserved attention, is additional legislation proposed over the last two years. Unfortunately, two bills, the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2020 – which would expand PSOB benefits to officers who die by suicide or are disabled as a result of traumatic experiences – and the COPS Counseling Act – which would make law enforcement officer peer support communications confidential, and possibly change the landscape of support – did not receive a vote and will need to be reintroduced to be considered.

The success of these endeavors relies heavily on the law enforcement community.  To help support these efforts please contact us at https://bluehelp.org/ or let your Congressman know you would like to see S.3434 – COPS Counseling Act and H.R. 7568 (116th): Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2020 reintroduced and passed.

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“Cumulative Trauma” My Story https://bluehelp.org/cumulative-trauma-my-story/ Thu, 21 Jan 2021 00:23:33 +0000 https://bluehelp.org/?p=12434 The post “Cumulative Trauma” My Story appeared first on Blue H.E.L.P..

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When began my law enforcement career in 1994,  I had no idea the toll daily exposure to traumatic events would cause.  At that time, mental health was never talked about nor was it mentioned in the police academy; the attitude was to “suck it up”.

The first time I performed CPR, it was on a little girl who went limp while her mother was feeding her chicken noodle soup.  I can still see her face, her lifeless eyes, the kitchen, the living room… After the call, I went to a local cemetery to be alone and wept.  Nothing prepared me for that moment. To this day, I can still see every suicide and homicide call I have been on, every fatal car and motorcycle crash, as well as most of the stabbings and shootings. Ironically, until the last few years, I never realized the affect it was having on me, and even when it was, I had no idea what was going on.

A few years ago, while on patrol, I began having mild panic attacks when I was sent on non-priority calls. A simple car crash, a shoplifter at a local business, easy calls, nothing that should have stressed me out at all.  My heart rate accelerated, I started to sweat, my hands would start shaking and my breathing became rapid.  I’d seen many panic attacks on the job, so I knew what was happening, I just didn’t know why.

Many times, I would take a couple deep breaths while en route and speak to myself aloud to pull it together.  I also started drinking, which I had rarely done most of my career. My drinking only on my days off became drinking every night.  My moderate amounts of alcohol became large quantities.  I was self-medicating as a coping mechanism, without really thinking about it. Every little stressor put me over the edge. I couldn’t handle life anymore. My once safe place, my home, became contentious as I was spiraling out of control. I became suicidal, trying to orchestrate the “best way to die” that would cause the least amount of damage to my wife and children. I pushed hard for my wife to leave me, which she refused. I had suicidal ideations regularly, I put the barrel of my gun to my head in different spots, trying to decide the best place for a gunshot, to make sure I didn’t screw it up. At times when I was drunk my wife hid my guns from me. It was a horrible season for both of us.

Throughout this time, my wife begged me to get help but I wouldn’t because of the shame and stigma.  I was the helper, not the helped. As the sole provider for my family, I was genuinely worried about what “getting help” would do to my employment. If I lost my job, we’d have no money or health insurance. My breaking point came on a night I was drunk.  I had conflict with someone, my wife or daughter, I don’t remember who; as I was really drunk most nights many of the details are fuzzy.  What I do remember though, is I tied a tie around my neck to hang myself in my bedroom. In the process I dropped a large glass of orange juice and vodka and my wife came upstairs. She helped me remove the tie, and we had “another unpleasant discussion” about what was happening to me. Unbeknownst to me, my 16-year-old daughter was just outside the bedroom door eavesdropping on our conversation. When I opened the door and saw her in tears it broke me, we all began to sob.  It was the worst day of my life.

After this incident a couple good things began to happen. My wife had been reading books on police officers, depression and PTSD and saw a connection.  I also stumbled upon an organization called Blue H.E.L.P., read the stories of officers who had taken their lives and saw so many similarities to myself.  I also read stories of officers who gotten help and realized for the first time that I wasn’t alone.  What was happening to me was the normal experiences of many officers.  I also saw that officers that found help kept their jobs.

 At my wife’s prodding I agreed to let her set up an appointment for me with our family physician for anxiety, even though I had come to realize I had depression.  I also discovered that depression runs in my family. Anyway, I figured anxiety was a safe problem that wouldn’t affect my career.  I cancelled a week before my appointment.  A month or so later we set up another appointment with my family doctor again.  I cancelled that also.  At this point I wanted help, I just didn’t have the courage to say what was going on in my head to someone who’s been treating my family and I for years. 

A couple months later, as I was still struggling, I searched for doctors outside of our immediate circle.  I found a female doctor that had good reviews and looked kind. I know that seems like an odd factor, but it was huge to me. If I was going to open up to someone, I needed empathy and kindness. Anyway, the big day came, I walked through the door and kept the appointment.  I’ll never forget when the doctor walked in and sat down.  She looked at me and said gently “What’s going on?”  I had intended to be stoic, but the tears just came pouring out of me.  She asked if I had been struggling with depression and had been suicidal, we talked about all of it, and then she said the sweetest words I had heard in a very long time “We’re going to get you some help.”

Fast forward a couple years.  I’m on an anti-depressant that have been a godsend. We had to try a couple different kinds, as they all have different side effects, but what I’m on now does wonders, as long as I don’t forget to take it. My wife noticed the difference in me quickly.  I’ve seen a counselor who is married to a cop.  She really understands the stressors of law enforcement and has helped me work through much of my past and the trauma of this career. I think one of the best things my counselor has helped me understand is that police officers are really good at compartmentalizing everything, until they’re not. Once they begin to implode, they can implode fast. That’s exactly what happened to me.

I’d like to tell you that everything is rainbows and unicorns, and some days it is.  I still have ups and downs, but at a fraction of what it was before.  I’m no longer having suicidal ideations. I rarely drink now and try to make sure I get enough sleep. I should exercise more and eat better, maybe in time.  I’ve also discovered a freedom in learning to be more open.  I’ve lost two friends, both officers to suicide. We’re not helping each other by being silent and bearing this alone.  Still doesn’t always make it easy.  I’ve come to realize that younger officers, or those without the exposure to so much trauma, probably won’t get it.  Unless you’ve had depression, I don’t think that’s possible to fully understand either. 

I’m rebuilding a marriage that took a painful hit in this process and I suppose I will forever be a work in progress. Thankfully, mental health and wellness is slowly becoming a topic amongst law enforcement nationwide.  For that I’m thankful.  Sadly, we’ve lost so many before it did. 

I guess in closing, I’ve come to realize help is available and we are not alone, but at some point, we have to really take the personal step to get help. I’ve talked with friends who are struggling on the job, shared my story, but they’ve resisted taking those first few hard steps. If they do, I know there’s light and hope on the other side.  All I know to do is to continue to try, not as someone who’s arrived, but as a wounded brother just trying to lift up another wounded brother or sister.

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