GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCBD) – Suicide is a major problem amongst first responders nationwide and across the Lowcountry.
One local organization is working to bring awareness and offer support for those who need it.
“A very terrible thing. We lose more first responders every year to suicide then we do line of duty deaths and that’s very sad,” said Gerald Mishoe, executive director for the Lowcountry Firefighter, EMS and 911 Telecommunicator Team.
So, they decided to do something to address mental health issues among first responders.
“We lost nine Charleston firefighters in 2007. That was the thing that really got us started because we realized the people needed help, and there wasn’t any help available,” said Mishoe.
Editor’s note: Rev. Rob Dewey with Charleston’s Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy offered support to firefighters and the victim’s families in wake of the Sofa Super Store fire and was in attendance for all nine of the firefighter’s funerals.
The organization has 20 mental health experts on hand to help firefighters, emts and telecommunicators.
“Many, many times we find the majority of issues in the first responder’s like, or things that are happening in their everyday life (are) financial issues, marital problems, alcohol issues, parenting issues,” he said.
The group now helps with needs across 23 counties in lower South Carolina.
“In addition to taking care of the first responders, we take care of their family members. So, if they have a spouse or child, or someone in their family that’s having some difficulties, they can reach out for help.”
“Several years ago, when the team was formed, I still think there were a lot of people who didn’t really know what it was, and now I can’t imagine us not having it,” said Chief Bob Maibach with the Goose Creek Rural Fire Department.
Chief Maibach says their service is meeting a serious need in the departments.
“…and they’re there to help in ways that a fire chief can’t.” he said.
The non-profit organization runs off donations and fundraisers on a regular basis.