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Group helps connect first responders to counseling

Posted at 6:21 PM, Oct 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-16 18:21:01-04

SUGAR CREEK TOWNSHIP, Ind. -- First responders lay their lives on the line rescuing and protecting members of the community. But who's there to help them?

Sometimes things aren't what they seem, when it comes to mental health. One wouldn't guess that Sugar Creek firefighter Lt. Tony Bratcher is managing depression.

"I kind of checked all the boxes for depression, but I denied it until I saw what it did to my wife," he said.

Depression is a leading cause of suicide in the U.S., and new data show that more firefighters died by suicide in 2017 than died in the line of duty. 

"It's a little shocking," said Blake Stinnett, the director of nonprofit group Next Rung. 

That group and others like them want to help. 

"While they are there to help them in their time of need, there are also times where we are in need of help as well," Stinnett said.

Next Rung provides scholarships to firefighters for counseling and connect first responders with others. 

"You know, we have seen a lot of the same things, or we have a lot of similar experiences that they have had," Stinnett said. "That tends to help the most."

They are now asking the community to rally behind firefighters; send a card, say a simple 'thank you,' or better yet, stop by the station.

"Those are the things that tend to help us more than anything," Stinnett said.

RELATED: Center provides free depression screenings

Working on fitness, faith and having a support system, Bratcher is back on track.

"I have a lot to be thankful for, so every time I start to think about the darkness, I think about the bright spots, I think about all the good that we do and all the kids that want to do this job," he said. "That kind of lifts you up every time."