Monique Rose says one day it will be OK to talk openly about mental health
and suicide at EMS agencies across the world.
“Now, if you tried to talk to somebody—to save your own life—you
likely wouldn’t be allowed to try to save anybody else’s life
anymore,” she said. “They would think you were unstable.”
Which is totally ironic, adds Rose, since Emergency Responders have a critically
high rate of suicide attempts and successes.
“But they hide it,” she said, “because nobody is supposed
to talk about it.”
Rose, a captain with Humboldt General Hospital EMS Rescue, is a founding
partner of “Reviving Responders,” a group dedicated to changing
that culture in EMS.
The group’s name came from HGH EMS Rescue’s 2014-2015 high
school EMT class, who brainstormed with Rose regarding a possible PSA/awareness
campaign on EMS and suicide.
Little did Rose know that just a short time later, she and six other EMS
professionals would found Reviving Responders after they were tasked with
undertaking a research project as part of an Ambulance Service Manager course.
Rose recounts that at first, the group was leaning toward a topic centered
on EMS recruitment.
“The more I thought about it,” says Rose, “the more I
knew I couldn’t support that topic. I was going to be asleep the
whole time; I just couldn’t get focused on that.”
Rose said as she tossed and turned ideas in her head, the idea of suicide
among EMS professionals struck her like a lightning bolt. She had personal
experience with the subject, and all of a sudden she found the focus she
was looking for.
Convincing her seven partners and their advisor to go her route, though,
was another story.
“They shied away from it at first,” she said. “There
were lots of thoughts, like the subject was too broad and that there wasn’t
enough research out there to support our project.”
With some gentle cajoling from Rose, the group developed a survey focusing
on critical stress and suicide in EMS. The return was an astounding 4,022
respondents from all 50 states, Guam, the District of Columbia, American
Samoa and Puerto Rico.
Even Rose was overwhelmed by the results.
“It was such an unbelievable survey response,” she said. “We
knew that we were delving into a subject that hit home with our fellow
Even more astounding was that 1,383, or 37 percent, of respondents had
contemplated suicide, and 6.6 percent had actually attempted to take their
Worse, the group discovered that suicide rates for EMS personnel are on
a steep rise, even though there are programs within the EMS profession
that can help.
“So if there’s help,” said Rose, “we wanted to
know why EMS professionals are predisposed to choosing suicide as a coping
And with that answer came the group’s passion.
“All of a sudden, we knew what we had to do,” said Rose. “We
didn’t just want to identify data, we wanted to fix holes in our
support systems; we wanted to change our culture.”
It hasn’t been easy. But little by little, Rose said individuals,
agencies and now organizations are being won over by the survey data and
the very stark realities it represents.
“We are broken,” she said, “and if we are broken, then
how can we fix other people? We have to be whole and healthy and able
to access the resources we need—without shame.”
The group’s data, conclusions and recommendations were memorialized
in a white paper last year. This year, the paper’s main points were
included on a large-scale poster that made its debut at the 2015 Pinnacle
Conference in July.
Next, the group will do a lecture presentation for the American Ambulance
Association, publish a paper in the
Journal of Emergency Medical Services, and make a presentation at the JEMS conference.
They are also working on achieving 501(c)3 nonprofit status through the
IRS, and recently launched a website,
www.revivingresponders.com, targeted at partnering organizations and individuals, as well as providing
resources for anyone contemplating suicide.
“We’re ready to take that next step,” said Rose. “We
want to continue to identify the scope of the problem and work to develop
and implement a variety of solutions.”
“We know we can help,” she added. “People in our industry
are hurting; we need to repair this culture so that getting help is not
considered a weakness.”