State Representative Brad Stephens (R-Rosemont) announced today that he was appointed to serve on the bipartisan First Responders Suicide Task Force. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin chose Rep. Stephens for this appointment because of the numerous first responders residing in his district.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Because of the stressful situations they encounter in the course of duty, PTSD and depression rates among firefighters and police officers are nearly five times higher than the civilian population. Statistically, firefighters and law enforcement officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line-of-duty.
“The nature of these “tough” professions have created a culture that unfortunately stigmatizes mental health and that’s resulted in first responders being more reluctant than others to seek help for emotional problems,” Rep. Stephens said. “I look forward to determining innovative solutions to help first responders overcome the emotional burdens of their job. They heroically encounter the worst situations our world has to offer; they need our help just as much as we depend on theirs.”
The goal of the task force is to help search for solutions and pursue recommendations to help reduce the risk and rates of suicide amongst first responders. The task force was created by Public Act 101-0375 and is charged with producing a final report to the General Assembly by December 21, 2020.
The First Responders Suicide Prevention Act also establishes a peer support program that focuses on wellness and suicide prevention. Crucial to fostering open communication, the law mandates that any information communicated during these mental health sessions would be strictly confidential and cannot be used against the first responder.
In addition to members of the General Assembly, the task force is comprised of the Director of the Illinois State Police, the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, representatives from various mental health organizations, and members of the first responder community. Leader Durkin also appointed Detective Patrick McGrath of the Chicago Police Department who serves as the Director of First Responders for the non-for profit Myparachute.org, a charity helping people and first responders cope with mental illness and reducing the stigma of getting help through the anonymity of a computer screen/clandestine assistance programs.
Rep. Stephens continued, “Detective McGrath comes from a proud first responder family and will bring an invaluable insight in to the struggles and challenges that our first responders’ face. I look forward to working with decorated first responders like McGrath who have firsthand knowledge and experience not only as officers themselves, but as leaders helping others cope with their mental health. Hearing from them will be vital in our efforts to create a support system that will ensure first responders have access to the mental health resources they need.”