“Speak up and reach out” is the language on wristbands being worn by San Diego Fire-Rescue Department employees this month in an effort to break down barriers to talking about depression or suicidal thoughts.
More firefighters died by suicide than were killed battling a fire on the front lines between 2015 and 2017.
A moment of silence was held Friday to honor the families of the 1,144 firefighters and emergency personnel across the country who have taken their own lives.
"It’s just really becoming evident that it’s a problem and its something that we have to deal with," SDFD Battalion Chief David Picone said.
The "We Remember," memorial event was held at fire departments across the county.
The SDFD has worked to improve communication programs with their staff -- forming a more direct line to support counselors and a chaplain -- in order to reverse the statistic.
Yellow bands being worn by fire staff this month say "speak up and reach out," the message, Picone says, the department wants to convey to their staff.
"The reality is, things start to catch up to you and you start to have to discuss things openly and have that dialogue with your crews," Picone said. "If we break down that barrier where its okay to talk about it -- you’re not going to ruin your reputation; you're not going to not be that tough police officer or that firefighter that needs help -- its okay."
Picone said police and other fire departments came out to support SDFD.
A recent national study suggested law enforcement officers were three times more likely to die of suicide than in the line of duty.
The San Diego Police Department has a similar program, the Wellness Unit, to allow officers to discuss the issues they see on the job.
If you or someone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). The lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.