On Tuesday Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill that will help first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder access care. The legislation is something firefighters and law enforcement officers have been calling on for nearly five years.
"We're losing officers continuously by suicide. In most years, more by suicide than line of duty deaths," said former law enforcement officer and board member of Wisconsin Injured Law Enforcement Officers Resource Council, Michael Doud.
According to a Ruderman Family Foundation study, across the country in 2017, 140 police officers and 103 firefighters died by suicide. That's compared to 129 line-of-duty deaths of police officers and 93 firefighters.
Lt. Brent Jones has spent his career on the frontlines of the Milwaukee Fire Department, seeing tragedies day after day.
"Kids dying, people dying, car accidents, dying in fires, people being shot, police officers being shot, firefighters being shot. When you go to bed, those images don't go away," Jones said when describing some of the hardest days.
And all of those tragedies eventually started to catch up to him.
"I got to a point where I was drinking a lot to try and forget, and there were three separate occasions when I had a gun to my head and my finger on the trigger," Jones said.
Doud describes similar feelings after being involved in a near-fatal car crash.
"I suffered from PTSD and depression, was borderline suicidal. And ended up getting treatment on my own," Doud said.
Jones also found out help. But instead of getting time off like other first reponders would for an injury, he had to take sick days while he was in a weeks-long treatment program.
Both Doud and Jones are encouraged by the signing of the bill, hoping future first responders will have more help and support than they did. And Doud wants other first responders, who may be silently suffering, to know they're not alone.
"For every one of you out there having issues, there's others. Could be friends, could be co-workers. And from my own experience, the more I talk about what I dealt with, the easier it is to talk about and to find out that you're not alone," Doud said.
For support, you can reach out to the following organizations: