Tag Archives: anxiety

Talking About Suicide Can Help You Avoid It

Sometimes, the pain can be too much to bear. It feels like you don’t have any way out of the difficulties you’re facing, and it seems will only worsen over time. That’s why you started thinking about suicide.

 

But suicide isn’t the answer, and there is help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (or 800-273-8255), a local emergency room, or even just dial 911. You know that suicide isn’t the right choice, and these resources can help you realize why. Once you’ve made that call, you’re ready to learn about other ways to get help, the facts about suicide, and some long-term strategies to stay alive.
Image Source: Pixabay

You Can Get Help Right Now

Calling the Lifeline will put you in touch with people who can help. It’s completely free, and you can call anytime. You can also visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline site, where you will also get specific resources if you are a veteran, LGBTQA, or a teen.

 

Here are a few additional actions you can take to help yourself right now:

  • Put everything on hold. Promise yourself that you’ll wait two days before doing anything you can’t undo.
  • If your suicidal thoughts are strong, visit your nearest emergency room.
  • Reach out to family or friends that you trust. Tell them why you are feeling suicidal. Sometimes, just talking about your pain can help you manage it better.

Aren’t Suicidal Thoughts OK?

If you have some suicidal thoughts, do you really need to call or visit the ER? Isn’t it normal to have those thoughts?

It depends on what you mean by “normal.” Yes, many people think about suicide from time to time. In fact, studies show that a variety of mental health problems — depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders — are all linked to suicide. However, thinking about harming yourself is not normal.

 

Psychology Today explains that suicidal thoughts are linked to worsening health, self-injury, and even death. In other words, you have to take these thoughts seriously. Even if many people have them, that’s not an excuse to downplay their severity and importance.

Long-Term Suicide Prevention Tips

Because studies link mental health problems to suicide, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has some great advice for long-term prevention. These include:

  • Stay social: Keep in touch with friends and family, and spend some time with both.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol: Both can lead to uncontrolled impulses and depression.
  • Write down triggers and signs: Create a log of what situations make you feel suicidal and any signs showing that you’re feeling that way. Share this with people you trust.
  • Create a plan for life: Write down contact information for close friends, family, the local emergency room, and the national lifeline. This can be used in an emergency to save your life.
  • Get professional help: Seek out a therapist or counselor to help you navigate through the pain and problems causing the suicidal thoughts.

 

You also need to be wary of using alcohol and drugs. Even though those can dull the pain temporarily, you can develop a substance abuse problem and become addicted without realizing it. People who suffer from substance abuse addiction are more likely to cause self harm.

You Have The Right To Keep Living

You’ve heard before that suicide is not a solution. That’s completely correct, but knowing it doesn’t help. If you are currently having suicidal thoughts, call 800-273-TALK to get immediate help. Then work on a long-term solution to keep yourself alive, including getting some professional help. You deserve to live.

Jennifer Scott

The Unappreciated

There comes a time in everyone’s life where all their efforts seem to be failing…

There comes a time when nothing seems to work out despite our valiant efforts…

There comes a time when disaster strikes those closest to us that do well, while the wicked live on and prosper…

There comes a time when leaders will abuse their authority, slander & lie, promote mediocrity, and allow certain individuals who “fall in line” to break the rules while they discipline those who do what is right with the most rigid and harsh results as if to say “Look what doing right will cost you”…

There comes a time when, we work our entire life only to be struck down by illness right as we near retirement…

There comes a time, when we begin to walk with God, and many of our relationships fall apart and they view us as hateful and prejudiced despite all of the love we have for them…

There comes a time when our efforts & accomplishments are stolen by others and they even receive recognition for their theft as the originators of the work…

There comes a time, when our spouse turns cold and demands a divorce despite all we do to reconcile…

There comes a time in our lives when we feel lost, abandoned, and unappreciated…

When one pursues righteousness, confesses their sins openly, and cares deeply for others; one would reason that they would be valued…

What then can we do when these trials and tribulations come?

Are we to give up hope as the world seems to only reward those who agree with their values?

Sadly, so many people choose suicide as the answer to their hopeless situation when in reality there lies a hope that cannot be taken from us…

Remember this: Values determine relationships….

What we value, what we cherish, what we know as sacred….

Those beliefs will determine our work ethic, our world view, and if we differ from the world we should be prepared for the storm…

Take comfort in the following words when the tribulations of this world come to our doorstep:

Jesus gave his disciples very specific and powerful instructions in the book of John. His words are for those who claim Him as Lord and Savior. This means we are disciples, which should be understood what responsibility we have and what hardships we will face as such:

“The term “disciple” is derived from the Koine Greek word mathetes, which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman), coming to English by way of the Latin discipulus meaning a learner while the more common English word is student. A disciple is different from an apostle, which instead means a messenger. While a disciple is one who learns from a teacher, an apostle is one sent to deliver those teachings or a message” (Wikipedia).

As disciples, then we are learners, pupils, or apprentices to the ultimate master craftsman…

So why do we expect those who don’t share these same values as our Master to appreciate ours?

Should we be surprised?

On the contrary, we have forgotten our master craftsman’s words and may have slowly began to become an apprentice of the world instead.

When the world tells us that all truth is relative we know:

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).

When we face the trouble, trial, and tribulation we remember:

Jesus said “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-3).

IMG_6571.JPGWhen the wicked prosper and are rewarded for their efforts we remember:

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and the He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:2-5).

One could write volumes on just these few mentioned scriptures but for this writing we should note that Jesus knew what He was facing (the crucifixion and God pouring out His wrath upon Him) and He loved those who were His own to the very end! Remember, as He was dying on the cross “Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Remember and read (the book of John is a great place to start) the life of Jesus and see the Son of God, born into abject poverty in a stable where shepherds were chosen as His first messengers. Shepherds were considered outcasts and lowly in terms of societal class in Biblical times. He was baptized, even though He was sinless, and He sought out disciples who were all imperfect sinful men. His three short years of ministering to them changed their lives, transformed their hearts, and He taught, healed, and stood up for truth. Those disciples went on to change the world and they all faced incredible hardships. All of them but one died for their efforts. And they were not recognized during their lives for their efforts but they were “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1b) of those who prophets who had gone before them. They knew what they were facing and they endured to the very end. Why? Because they knew as Jesus did who they belonged to, what reward awaited them, and that their love would lead to eternal dividends in the lives of generations to come.

Therefore, will we “grow weary in doing good?”

Or will we remember who we belong to, what we WILL face, and what reward awaits us?

All of this we do out of love for the one who loved us to the very end even though even He was unappreciated by the very people He came to save. Don’t give up on this world, Jesus didn’t!

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

 

The Forgotten Ones

It is a commonly known fact that those that care for others the most often receive the least care or concern in return…
 
It is commonly known that those who give the most of themselves, who bear their souls, and lift up others in prayer often suffer in silence with their own struggles of sin and pain…
 
To those who call out from the depths of despair…
When you have walked through the darkness of your circumstance…
Take a moment and remember thankfully those who were there…
 
For many laborers make light work of one’s burdens…
Yet too often, when the burden is lifted…
The hurting hearts are healed and the helper is left hurting…
 
When your pain blinds our perspective where you feel that no one cares…
Stand up, open up our eyes, and see the multitude…
Who have been long standing there…
 
Standing alongside with those who have felt abandoned…
Shedding tears with the broken and the forgotten…
Praying for those who aren’t aware…
That many are lifting them up in fervent, passionate, and heartfelt prayer…
 
There are those who hold another’s pain only for a brief moment…
There are those who listen with compassion, intently focused, on the hearts that are broken…
There are those who keep your confidence of your darkest & innermost pain…
There are those who do this, daily, again, and again…
 
They take that phone call at the worst possible time…
They show up when all hope is lost and everyone has gone…
They hold your hand, hold your heart, and never let go of the line…
 
They have sacrificed, lost, and often fall ill…
They have done all of this not for fame or fortune…
They have cared deeply because of the love of the One…
The One who gave it all in spite of our sin…
The One who lived, loved, and died, and rose again…
 
He is the reason that there are those who care so much…
He has changed their heart, enlarged it, and filled it with His love…
They do all these things and more in the name of God’s Son…
They do all of this even though that they are often forsaken, persecuted…
And even though they help those who are lost, they are often the forgotten ones…
 
We say we “Never Forget”, I challenge you today to Never Forget those who have lifted you up, cared when no one else did, and listened when all others walked away…
 
Let us not forget those who care enough to “bear one another’s burdens” for they often are bearing great burdens of their own.
 
God Bless,
Andy Starnes

In One Moment

Many of us complain through our joys rather than celebrate them…

We fail to realize that our lives are but mere moments…

And it’s up to us to either live with remorse or cherish them…

In one moment, we stand before God at an altar…

In one moment, we cannot believe that our marriage has faltered…

In one moment, we hold a precious new born child…

In one moment, we are signing papers over differences that can’t be reconciled…

In one moment, we are pious and preaching at others…

In one moment, we are found guilty of the same sin we condemned our fellow brothers…

In one moment, we are living a dream, perfect and serene…

In one moment, we are found wanting, our nightmare has erased our dream…

In one moment, we have a family, a job, and all that we could ask for…

In one moment, we are hiding in an alley, shivering in the cold suffering from our own personal disaster…

In one moment, we are saving others, making a difference every day…

In one moment, we are staring down the barrel of a gun wondering if there is another way…

In one moment, we are comforting others with counsel and guidance…

In one moment, we are refusing our own advice lost in our own personal bias…

In one moment, we are healthy and we take it for granted…

In one moment, we are disease stricken, hopeless, and abandoned….

In one moment, our lives can suddenly change…

Yet we often take these moments for granted, failing to realize they will never be had again…

This all comes back to a garden where we lived in perfect fellowship…

We had it all, yet we longed for more even though there was only one prohibition…

Rather than focus on what we have, we pondered that one refusal…

The decision to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…

From this day on we have been spiraling downward, hell bent on having it our way…

Yet what we failed to realize is that God warned us yet we did it anyway…

We chose to decide what is good and what is evil based on our own decisions…

We chose to invalidate morality, condemn accountability, and justify our own sins…

The collateral damage since that day is plain for every eye to see…

Failed marriages, rampant violence, and even the killing of our own unborn children…

All neatly justified, elaborately explained, by society’s freedom from religion…

We rip God from the very pages of our history as to say to Him, You are not welcome here…

Yet we welcome and encourage His word to the incarcerated as it calms the violence and fear…

We scream at those who follow Christ, you are hateful and intolerant of our views…

While they serve the least, feed the hungry, and struggle with their own demons in their pews…

We lash out at those who say there is only one way to God through Christ….

While in reality, our doctrine loses its explanatory power at the end of our lives…

For only then as the thief on the cross realized at the last moment…

Only Jesus Christ can save us from our sins and his precious blood made for our atonement…

Sadly, many of us realize this one moment too late…

Our death bed conversion never occurs as we enter the brimstone lake…

We weep and we gnash our teeth in the darkness but our cries are not heard…

For in our one moment, we chose to ignore the voice of our Savior and Lord…

We chose our moments to be defined by our own righteousness that fell far too short…

We chose to justify our sinful lifestyles only to be found guilty in the highest of courts…

We thought we would stand and give God our explanation…

Yet we fell silent, on our knees, and confessed our lack of His salvation…

But this story doesn’t have to end this way for all of humanity…

For God sent His Son to save the world from this terrible calamity…

If we would but accept His gift and confess our sinful heart…
He will give us a new heart, a new mind, and a brand new start…

This is the promise from God that cannot be broken…

His word will not return void and we are free to be one of His chosen…

Will we accept this freedom in Christ this treasured gift that He gave?

His blood, His sacrifice, was given so all may be saved?

It is a gift that must be received for our relationship to be restored…

It costs us nothing but our submission to the One Jesus Christ Our Lord…

He gave it all so that we may live…

In our one moment, what will we choose to give?

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

 

 

 

In a Battle? Time to Get to Higher Ground!

In the midst of the storms of this life, have we considered how well we are communicating with the One who controls the winds and the waves? In the middle of the firefight when the flames are raging, how well are we communicating with the Ultimate Incident Commander?
“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me for in you my soul takes refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purposes for me” (Psalm 57:1-2)
 
There is a battle raging right before our very eyes. Police are being targeted and killed, religious freedoms are being removed, innocent unborn children are being murdered, terrorism is on the rise, and the importance of morals & values are being diminished by many leaders in society. Yet there is an even greater war going on….
 
“For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).
 
The Bible clearly tells us that there IS spiritual warfare going on all around us. For those who believe, we see its effects clearly around us. Yet we also fight a battle within ourselves against our sinful nature. We fight against our own lust, lies, anger, hypocrisy, idolatry, greed, and so on.
 
“For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Holy Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Galatians 5:17-18).
 
So how do we fight against this invisible foe along with our sinful nature? Paul reminds us in Ephesians that we should “put on the full armor of God, so that you can be ready to take you stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). However, are we truly ready for battle? The issue isn’t the armor of God in many cases; but whether or not we are communicating and in relationship with the One who is leading the battle.
 
We must boldly then pray “For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18) and know that “In Him through faith we approach God” (Ephesians 3:12). This can be hard for many of us. For myself, I feel that my prayers are often hindered not because of God but because of me. I feel unworthy to approach him because of my sins. I forget the great price that was paid for my own sins by Jesus Christ. I have to come once again, boldly yet broken to the foot of the cross and cry out to My Lord having the full confidence that He will hear me not because of what I have done but because of what Jesus Christ has done for all of us.
 
We can then pray as Paul did that God would “strengthen you with the power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted, and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s Holy people to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-20).
 
So are ready for battle? Are we willing to put the time in as a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Time in prayer, Time in studying His word, and Time in showing God’s love to a hurting and lost world even if it costs us?
Remember, a solider expects to be attacked, they expect their enemy will come at them. Let us then boldly pray and pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus knowing that He will fight our battles if we will remain in Him.
 
God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes

A Burden Never Meant For Us To Carry:

A man sits with his head in his hands weeping. He has just suffered the loss of his wife in a tragic accident. 

In one moment, they were together and in the next a car struck her, taking her young life. As I checked for a pulse in a lifeless and broken body I knew there was no hope for her. I turned to see his eyes only to hear him say:

“Why aren’t you helping her?”

I stood with my arms outstretched and said “I am sorry, she is gone, and there is nothing we can do.” He refused my offer for comfort, pushed me away while screaming “No, No, No.”

In these dark moments, we long to bring comfort the hurting. We wish we could do the impossible. We long to ease their pain and suffering but in reality what can we really offer them?

If we have not suffered the same loss, bore the same burdens, and felt the same pain; how can we truly understand?

However, there is a way and the way has a name: Jesus Christ

For those who believe and know Him in their hearts they also know this about our Lord:

“Because He himself suffered…” (Hebrews 2:18)

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” (Matthew 26:38)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses but we have a high priest who has been tempted in every way-Yet He did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

The great mysteries of why tragic things happen often cloud our perspective. We focus on the pain and forget that God loves us. A wise man was quoted in saying:

“I often wondered which was worse-to suffer great pain or for myself to witness a loved one suffering great pain. I have learned through the sufferings of my loved ones of what it must have cost the Father to give His only Son for us.” (Ravi Zacharias)

The Father gave up His Son for us. How He must have felt as He watched Jesus die on the cross. Yet His plan was greater than we all could comprehend or see through that tragic moment. And for those of us who believe, these moments of tragedy and crisis become something else beyond the world’s ability to comprehend: 

An opportunity to serve….

A chance to show compassion…

A moment to share our heart…

A small offering of our life’s work given in the tangible actions where we show love, compassion, and comfort to those in their last moments..

In these moments, we have a rare opportunity to offer the comfort that we have been comforted with which is the love of Jesus Christ. We call upon God and pray for His guidance moment by moment. We know not the circumstances nor how we will be called upon to serve.

Yet we ask that He would give us a heart big enough to hurt with those around us but not absorb or own their pain. For it is not ours to carry; we only hold it with them for a brief few moments. The post traumatic scars we carry are often from when we take ownership of a burden that was never ours to carry.

For we are to show up, silently comfort by our presence, lift others up, and speak words of comfort IF they are needed and we are led to do so. 

For we are to “bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We are not to own their burdens or try to take the place of God. We are to share the love, comfort, and grace of God with a hurting world in just as Christ did.

May we all learn from our Lord that He knows our pain and He will carry our burdens if we would just let Him do so. For He reminds us to:

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Pray for God’s comfort and His Holy Spirit to equip those who serve so they may offer the greatest gift we can offer to a hurting world:

The Gift of Jesus Christ our Lord!

Andy Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

We the Post Traumatic Souls

We the Post Traumatic Souls:

In most cases, the world looks upon its public servants with high regard. There are a few that abuse the position, tarnish its reputation, and damage the public’s trust. As a whole, less than ½ of 1% of public servants abuse their place of public trust. This is percentage better than doctors, lawyers, and even our clergy.

Yet, in the midst of such great trust and such great responsibility there is something that the public doesn’t see. They don’t see what we truly see. They don’t know the burden of the ghosts that haunt our spirits and how we are statistically dealing with these scars in self-destructive ways.

Firefighters, police, and first responders are suffering from PTSD, anxiety & depression, and the number of suicides is on the rise. Why is this so? Is it the one bad call that sets off a chain reaction of a personal firestorm? Or is it the cumulative stress of the things we see daily and then add our struggles that we face in our own lives?

The young woman whose life was taken too soon by a careless drunk driver…

The lifeless infant thrown to you as you arrive with passionate screams from the mother to save her child…

The constant exposure to death, tragedy, difficult personnel problems with no consistent sleep…

And when we do sleep is often interrupted by flashbacks, shaking, or jolted awake by the tones for another call for help…

The constant exposure of everyone else’s tragic circumstances does not leave the servant unscathed…

In fact, we often carry these personal moments with death us. Without our knowledge, their moments become part of us, begin to affect our daily actions and relationships, and soon our lives begin to unravel from the sheer stress and weariness of carrying the weight of too many losses.

This is where we begin…

Where we realize that their deaths and pain were not ours to own…

We need to understand our role was to help even if there was seemingly nothing we could do…

Our very presence brought assurance, comfort, and in some ways closure for others…

But when those who have lost loved ones, we do them a great disservice by our refusal to let them go…

For many who have lost those dear to them, they will always have a scar on their heart but yet they will move on…

For us to hold on to their pain, to relive it, to feel regret is to prevent the living from healing…

We don’t realize it, our subconscious repeats the incident, and hypervigilance seems to steal our peace…

But we must understand, when a funeral happens it is not for the dead but for the living…

So they may grieve, so they may heal, so they may say goodbye…
We the post traumatic souls refuse to let them go, the dead are restless as they constantly re-live their last moments in our minds…

We blame ourselves, we pour our pain away through prescriptions, alcohol, trying to cover the pain with poison…

When what we really need more than anything is peace…
Yet tragically, so many seek this peace by ending their own lives…

The desperation of the moment, the lack of sleep, and the stress of it all diminishes their focus and they believe the lie of the enemy that suicide is their solution…

And then they die not realizing that by their actions they have laid another restless soul upon another’s heart…

Their death and loss becomes another’s burden and we repeat this cycle…

So what do we do? How do we let go of all this pain and begin to heal?

Post-Traumatic Stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. Our bodies reacting with all of the symptoms are the effects of the collateral damage of catastrophes crashing through our attempts at resiliency. We need to realize that we are HUMAN! We need each other and we need help bearing these burdens. We need the peace of God in our hearts that comes not from this world but from a settled assurance that the overwhelming circumstances of our lives are reconciled. In Philippians, Paul reminds us to:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Did you hear that? “The peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This peace comes from knowing that we have been reconciled to God not because we are worthy, not because of anything we have done, but because we the broken and contrite have come to the foot of the cross and realized that the scar in our souls can only be healed by the one who loved us so much that He died for us.

Paul understood the burdens of a weary soul. He lived a life in which he persecuted, arrested, and had Christians murdered. He must have awoke many nights reliving those moments and feeling great sorrow for his past. Yet, He was able, by the grace of God, not only to move forward but to minister, to plant churches, and write most of the New Testament (to name a few of the mighty works God did through an imperfect and sinful man).

We need to realize, that no matter our past our pain and tragic moments are not meant to be our permanent address. Grief and sorrow have their purpose and we are meant to feel these emotions but we are not meant to dwell there forever. To do so is to reject the gift of God and create a prison of hell and torment while we are on earth and this is what the Devil would have us do.

“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (Lamentations 3:31-33).

The challenge we face as servants to our fellow man in their last moments is not to take ownership of them nor to let those moments own us. They do not define us but yet refine us. If we don’t seek help, these moments can collectively destroy us. We who have been greatly tested can either courageously share our testimony or we can become bitter and alone. We can take post-traumatic stress and as we heal in time can show post traumatic growth by ministering to others who suffer as we did. We can remember what we have been through but not relive it. We can look in the eyes of the hurting servant first responder and truthfully say “Many will tell you that they know how you feel but they don’t. However, I do know how you feel and I don’t have all the answers but I will listen, I will be here, and I will walk with you as you heal.”

May we all come to know the peace that passes understanding…

May we all have the courage to seek help in our broken moments…
May we all turn our tragic moments of pain into testimonies that we share to help those experiencing the same…

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Please see our resources that are available on the Firefighter May-Day Page for more information on how to receive help or how to help others:

Firefighter May-Day

The Shortest & Most Powerful Verse

The Shortest & Most Powerful Verse:

“Jesus wept” (John 11:35)

As firefighters, we don’t like to admit that we often hurt. Not just a physical pain from our work but an inner torment. We often push down the emotions from the things we see, the struggles in our own lives, and the stress we experience. Then in one moment, we erupt as if our emotional pressure relief valve gives up. The tears come and they fall like rain. Perhaps, in this moment we could take the time to remember that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also shed tears.

Jesus experienced the same emotions that you and I feel. Every one of us has shed tears, tears of joy, and tears of sadness.  We will face trying times and some of these moments will seem impossible for us to deal with.  And as a follower of Christ, the more that we work for Him, the higher position we rise to, the greater the opposition we will face. It is a certainty that has been foretold by Jesus and lived out by Him and all of those who have followed Him.

“If you want to be my follower you must love Me more than your own father & mother, wife, and children, brothers, sisters-yes more than your own life.” (Luke 14:26)

In John 15:18-25 Jesus predicts our coming persecutions:

18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master. ’If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin.  Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates Me also hates My Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their scripture might be fulfilled: They hated Me for no reason.

Many of us have fallen away when we have suffered for the sake of Christ but we must remember the words in 1 Peter 4:12-19.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?

 

And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty,

What will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator.”

Every person that we can read about in the Bible struggled, suffered, and wept. Yet, do we realize there is such a thing as tears of joy. The actual chemical composition of tears of sadness and tears of joy are actually different. So when we feel the emotions flood our hearts let us not suppress them let us embrace them and remember:

God counts every one of our tears:

“Thou numberest my wanderings: Put thou my tears into thy bottle; Are they not in thy book?” Psalm 56:8

God Himself has shed tears:

“Jesus wept” John 11:35

God will wipe away our tears:

“4 and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. “(Revelation 21:4)

The tears of joy and sadness in life will come but let them fall knowing that God the Father counts every one, God the Son has shed tears, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes one day. We can take comfort Jesus was “made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since He himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)

We are to remember that this world is the training grounds for heaven. We are made for a higher purpose, predestined for good works, and He will use all things to work together for our good and His glory if we will yet trust in Him. Hold the line, don’t let stop fighting the fires of your life, and remember He is with us though it all.

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

 

 

Rescuing Our Own

Rescuing our own- “Why don’t those who save others call for help?”

The United States is seeing increasing numbers of first responders suffering from behavioral health despite the increasing of availability of behavioral health resources. Statistical data has shown an increase in first responders suffering from these behavioral health issues such as: anxiety and depression, PTSD, alcohol & substance abuse, and increased risk of suicide. First Responders are exposed to occupational stress at a higher level than many other occupations and we respond differently to potentially traumatic events. Could our responder mind-set and our culture be contributing to the increase in the behavioral health issues?

Consider this: “The American fire service has been rocked in recent years of apparent suicide clusters in large, metro fire departments” (Gist, Taylor, Raak. p.2). “One study that examined North Carolina firefighters found the following: “Compared with professional firefighter line-of-duty deaths (LODDs), suicides occurred more than three times as often” (Salva p.1).

What do we really know about first responders and occupational stress exposure?

As part of the Tampa summit in 2004, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) identified 16 life safety initiatives in order to improve firefighter health and safety. Fire Life Safety Initiative 13 was born out of the collective research that identified the increasing number of behavioral health issues in the fire service.  The Suicide and Depression Summit held in 2011, which was sponsored by the NFFF, expounded upon FLSI #13 and identified further areas of needed study pertaining to suicide and depression in the ranks of first responders.

To further emphasize the importance of this problem consider the following examples:

Consider the case of Kyle Lenn, a 23 year member of the fire service, and considered one of the most progressive fire chiefs of his time. He was actively involved in the Everyone Goes Home program, active in the Nebraska Fire Chief’s Association, and more. On the morning of January 31rst 2012 his body was found hanging from a bridge from an apparent suicide. His death shocked the fire service community and numerous other deaths like Lenn’s have brought attention to behavioral health problems in the fire service (Wilmoth,).

Or this quote from Clifford F. Carlisle, Mountain Brooke Fire Department-

“Over the years, one of our firefighters, killed his wife and then himself. Another firefighter transferred from a larger department, worked several years, resigned and committed suicide. Others have been involved in a variety of altercations, domestic problems, and stress related episodes and illnesses. One employee who appears to have become a recluse, retired and left the country. His problems followed him overseas” (Shantz, p.1).

In my personal experience, I have lost several friends to suicide and two of those were firefighters. We as first responders experience tragedy, loss, pain, and are with the trauma level hospice worker who compassionately cares for others in their last moments. These experiences are often embedded in our memories and many suffer post-traumatic stress disorder due to this.

 

Consider the statistical data below concerning first responders/firefighters by an organization who counsels and treats first responders:

  • As much as 37% of the fire service suffers from PTSD.
  • “As a result, some estimates put alcohol abuse in fire departments at upwards of 25 – 30%, approaching two or three times the incidence of alcohol abuse in the general population (7 – 9%).”
  • As much as 30% of firefighters suffer from depression.

 

(Messina http://americanaddictioncenters.org/firefighters-alcohol-will-rescue-heroes/)

 

Yet, in the face of these overwhelming circumstances there is help for those who save others. The question remains, with behavioral health resources becoming increasingly available, why are first responders not reaching out for help?  In regards to firefighter behavioral health, Fire Life Safety Initiative 13 was developed to provide psychological support and counseling to all firefighters. Due to the suicide clusters, as mentioned in the introduction, this lead to the Suicide and Depression Summit. In Baltimore Maryland 2008, the first FLSI 13 Consensus meeting was held which focused on potentially traumatic events. This consisted of six different research organizations and six different fire service organizations that focused on identifying the resources needed to create behavioral health assistance that would effectively serve firefighters and their families (Gist, Taylor, Raak. P 5.).

The researchers at the Suicide and Depression Summit were the top individuals in the fields of PTSD, Suicide, and Employee Assistance Programs, and Firefighter Health Research. These different organizations were formed into consensus groups that would identify “behavioral health resources, improve upon member assistance programs, and address self-help and peer support” (Gist, Taylor, Raak. p.5). These groups focused on providing programs and support to firefighters/first responders that have been previously been identified into two areas of need:

  • The High Risk Responder: The high risk responder is a first responder who has serves in a disaster role for long durations. As studies have shown that these individuals are at a greater risk (as high as 34%) for developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). Studies also have shown that there is a “relationship between the duration of traumatic exposure and the development of posttraumatic stress” (Castellano, Plionis p.328). Consider the another perspective of the High Risk Responder: A first responder, firefighter or police officer who serves in very active areas for long shifts, works overtime, and works a second job at another busy job. As public servants, can we see a correlation between serving on the busiest unit, company, or force and the development of post-traumatic stress?
  • Rescuer-Victim Group: The Rescuer-Victim group was identified through studies after Hurricane Katrina. Many of the first responders became victims to the incident themselves. They suffered from three critical incident stress incidents simultaneously: the actual disaster itself, the failure or breakdown of the emergency response organizations, and the personal and ethical crisis that the responders faced during the disaster. These first responders had to choose between obeying their sworn duty and protecting/saving their family. In my experience, this group still exists today without the presence of a disaster event. I believe that the Rescuer-Victim Group occurs when a first responder must choose between dealing with their own personal problem, the failure of support from their organization, and the collateral damage that is thereby caused within their families. This is one reason why many first responders are not seeking help. As they are paralyzed by their problem, know they must do something, but often fail due to the possibility of losing their job, not being aware of the resources available, and the failure of their organizations to adequately train their employees to assist those in crisis.

The Suicide and Depression Summit’s efforts developed the following programs to assist firefighters: After Action Review, Psychological First Aid, Screening and Assessment Materials, Behavioral Health Assistance Program standards, Web training in evidence supported intervention for clinicians treating fire service members, and Support for effective peer assistance efforts (Gist, Taylor, Raak. p.8). Many of these programs already existed but were not developed with the fire service specifically in mind due to the complexities of our culture and the need for peer support. Since then the following areas have been developed and are available through the National Fallen Firefighters website under the Everyone Goes Home section. If you are not currently aware of these resources, I strongly suggest after reading this article that you visit their website and begin the journey to learning how to rescue our fellow brothers and sisters.

After Action Review:

After Action Review (AAR) has been practiced by the military for years. Under the Everyone Goes Home program the After Action Review is a training section that evaluates what the first responders just did after every call, every training, or every significant incident. The goal is to take the ‘who’ out of it and to learn why what happened. This is an immediate debriefing involving only the members involved. This can be implemented with ease in any organization regardless of size, staffing, or resources. The leadership can begin discussing calls each day and monitoring their co-workers behavioral health in order to prevent or reduce the increasing rate of behavioral health issues in emergency services today. (https://www.fireherolearningnetwork.com/LoggedIn/Training.aspx?ProgramId=16e11f1f-277a-

499f-ae50-228e796ccd29)

Psychological First Aid (PFA)

PFA is a form of emotional first aid. It has been studied and implemented since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The field application of this model was implemented on 9/11 to the members of the New Jersey Task Force One (NJTF-1). PFA consists of five phases or steps: assessment, stabilization, triage, communication, and follow-up connection. The implementation of PFA was found to be more successful through the use of peer counselors as they “fit the culture of law enforcement emergency personnel and lent credibility and familiarity to the counseling effort” (Castellano, Plionis, p.329).  PFA connects the first responder with “mutual support following high impact calls while enhancing daily performance and citizen satisfaction” (Gist, Taylor, Raak. p.7). It is designed for immediately after the incident which uses evidence based support designed by the US Department of Veterans to prevent the development of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD (Brymer M, Jacobs A, Layne C, Pynoos R, Ruzek J, Steinberg A, Vernberg E,Watson P. p.5). As firefighters, the doorway to assist them after an incident is through the assistance of peer counselors. If your organization currently offers training in critical incident stress management (individual and group counseling) I highly recommend that you attend this training in order to better care for those in your fellowship. After all, who sees the first sign of a ‘working fire’ inside of our lives if not our fellow firefighters that work with us 1/3rd of our lives?

A Multi-component CISM model augmented with peer-to-peer counseling:

Many departments employ the use of Critical Incident Stress Management to assist in managing first responder stress to Potentially Traumatic Events otherwise known as PTE’s. This Critical Incident Stress model consists of six components which are acute crisis counseling by peer counselors, an executive leadership program, a multi-disciplinary team, an acute traumatic stress group training, a 24-7 Hot-line for first responders, and a reentry program. Currently there are resources available through the NFFF for CISM training and many departments across the country have certified CISM teams. Does your organization have a CISM team? This is our 911 for our personal May-Day’s.  Does your organization have a Hot-line for those who need to counseling? If this isn’t the case consider the following numbers that can are available for first responders in crisis:

  • The Share the Load Program by The National Volunteer Firefighters Counsel: org/help1-888-731-FIRE FREE (3473)
    This free, confidential help line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to members of the fire, EMS, and rescue services and their families. Please see their video on the Warning Signs of Firefighter Behavioral Health:
  • Firefighter May-Day: Please visit bringingbackbrotherhood.org and click on the Firefighter May-Day page for a list of resources of trained professionals who can assist our fellow brothers and sisters.

The complexities of behavioral health equals further research is needed:

In regards to firefighter behavioral health. First, there is a limited amount of verifiable data available regarding firefighter suicides thus funding should be allocated to provide a better understanding.  Second, as the Suicide and Depression Summit recruited the top experts in the field the fire service should recruit the experts in the military who are already performing similar studies and programs pertaining to suicide. Those who encourage action in this field should be instructed to present their findings based on observable and verifiable data; not based on assumptions and personal experience.

The contributing factors for suicide in the fire service should be researched further focusing on elements of thwarted belongingness and personal contribution as they may contribute to higher risk of suicides (Gist, Taylor, & Raak p.22). Screening and intervention approaches should be created and designed specifically for the fire service. Such programs have been developed such as the TSQ-Trauma Screening Questionnaire as part of the FLSI #13 initiative. This is a tool that allows the supervisor to quickly determine whether or not an employee needs further care or assistance. It is valuable due to its simplicity and its similarity in how firefighters ‘size-up’ problems.

These programs should be preventative and intervention based while grounded in empirical data. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, suicide ideation program training, and behavioral health care training should be readily available and inexpensive to the fire service, its leaders, and the necessary heath care providers. Sadly, most firefighters aren’t aware of these programs and neither are their leaders. Peer support programs should consist in training members in addressing suicide. Each organization should follow a strategic plan of action similar to the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention which explains a more comprehensive approach to suicide prevention through education, screening and better medical care, and more available resources for the individual after they have been discharged to help re-acclimate them back into their daily life.  The materials for these trainings should be easily accessible along with a suicide hotline listed. The materials should be developed in cooperation with IAFF, IAFC, NVFC, and USFA. These organizations all are have significant influence on the fire service and through this partnership it would ensure a more successful implementation. All of these recommendations will be made possible only by allocating funds for their research and implementation.

Many firefighters and first responders do not readily seek help for their behavioral health problems due to a lack of knowledge of the resources currently available. As mentioned above, there are currently numerous resources available to first responders and firefighters such as the FLSI #13 resources which are based on the following programs: After Action Review, Psychological First Aid, Screening and Assessment Materials, Behavioral Health Assistance Program standards, and free web based training. Many departments currently employ the multi-disciplinary CISM approach which offers employees defusing’s, debriefings, and follow-up if needed after potentially traumatic events. The belief that firefighters don’t readily seek help isn’t based upon opinion; it is based on the numerous interviews with first responders, counselors, fire chiefs, and personal observations and interviews with those in my sphere of influence. The continual trend of not being aware of these resources lead to the writing of this article.

 

 We have identified the problem, now what?

We are constantly training to stay ready for the next challenge we may face. Let us ask ourselves, how well are we trained in saving our brothers and sisters from their own personal may-day? As a member of the emergency service world, let us ask us ourselves the following questions:

  • Does your organization currently offer any services for its members for behavioral health concerns such as: alcohol, substance abuse, depression, PTSD, counseling, and stress management?
  • What services do they currently offer?
  • Are you familiar with Fire Life Safety Initiative #13
  • Are you familiar with CISM-Critical Incident Stress Management
  • If you or someone you knew needed help in any of these areas would you know how to receive assistance?

How well were you able to answer the questions above? On average, most first responders are not aware of the resources their organization provides and are not aware of how to help someone or themselves in the event of a personal crisis. This identifies the need for training. As leaders, we should be just as well-trained in taking care of our people as we are proficient at providing services for our customers. There are internal customers and external customers. We need to take care of our own so they may thrive and provide even better service to our citizens. The incentive to the organizations for offering this training is reduced employee behavioral health issues which results in reduced medical expenses, longer careers due to better management of these behavioral health issues, and reduced cost to the employer by maintaining their workforce rather than firing/losing employees due to these issues. If we are to truly be accountable for the profession that we serve we should be well-trained at rescuing our own. The greatest save we may ever make could be the person next to us. Let us take up the challenge and not let our brothers and sisters lives burn down around them. Begin the rescue of our brothers and sisters today by beginning a personal commitment to learn more, become trained in these areas, and teach others to do the same.

May their cries for help go unanswered no more….

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

 

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Works Cited:

Antonellis Jr. Paul J., Thompson. Denise A. A Firefighter’s Silent Killer: Suicide. Fire Engineering University. Penn well Publishing. (Pg.1) http://www.fireengineering.com/content/dam/fe/online-articles/documents/FEU/FEU-AntonellisDec12.pdf

Brymer M, Jacobs A, Layne C, Pynoos R, Ruzek J, Steinberg A, Vernberg E, & Watson P. Psychological First Aid. Field Operations Guide Second Edition. National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (p.5). retrieved from: http://www.kennedykrieger.org/sites/kki2.com/files/psychological-first-aid-final-complete-manual.pdf

Castellano, Cherie. Plionis, Elizabeth. (2006) Comparative Analysis of Three Crisis Intervention Models Applied to Law Enforcement First Responders During 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Oxford Journals. Retrieved from: http://triggered.clockss.org/ServeContent?url=http://btci.stanford.clockss.org%2Fcgi%2Fcontent%2Ffull%2F6%2F4%2F326

Ford, Travis. (2006). Building Support for Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives in Higher Education. Executive Leadership. Retrieved from: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/pdf/efop/efo38810.pdf

Gagliano, Anne. (2009). What Every Firefighter’s Spouse Should Know. Fire Engineering. Retrieved from:http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-162/issue-12/departments/fire-commentary/what-every-firefighter.html

Gist, Taylor, & Raak, (2011).Suicide Surveillance, Prevention, and Intervention Measures for the US Fire Service. Findings and Recommendations for the Suicide and Depression Summit. Retrieved from: http://lifesafetyinitiatives.com/13/suicide_whitepaper.pdf

Manning, William A. (2007). Fire Life Safety Initiatives. Everyone Goes Home Summit White Paper. Retrieved from: http://www.everyonegoeshome.com/summit/whitepapers.pdf

Nock, Matthew K. Joiner, Thomas. Berman, Alan L. (2011) Issues of Depression and Suicide in the Fire Service. Retrieved from: http://lifesafetyinitiatives.com/13/depressionsuicide_summary.pdf

Salvia, JS. (2008). “Suicide among North Carolina professional firefighters: 1984-1999.” Dissertation Abstracts International, 69.

Shantz, Mark. (2002) Effects of Work Related Stress on the Firefighter/Paramedic. EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF FIRE STAFF AND COMMAND. Retrieved from: http://www.emich.edu/cerns/downloads/papers/FireStaff/Stress,%20Fitness,%20Wellness/Effect%20of%20Work%20Related%20Stress%20on%20the%20Firefighter%20Paramedic.pdf

Wilmoth, Janet. Trouble in Mind. NFPA Journal. May 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.nfpa.org/newsandpublications/nfpa-journal/2014/may-june-2014/features/special-report-firefighter-behavioral-health

 

The Rescue of a Broken Heart:

IMG_3677“Without realizing it, we often carry something around with us everywhere we go. We bring it out in our conversations and it shows up in our attitudes. It never really existed, yet it’s power lives among us and keeps us from moving forward.” Author unknown.

A look, an act of omission, choosing to remove oneself, and the very lines on our face can tell more than many of us would like to admit about the condition of our heart. We blindly believe that we can move through our days and function without others realizing that we are silently suffering on the inside. Our behaviors give away and cry out to others what our prideful selves refuse to do.

In these moments, if not careful we can hurt others in so many ways. We push others away and build walls around our hearts. We seal off our emotions as if they were a hazardous material that no one should touch. In reality, we have been hurt so deeply that we would rather suffer in solitude than allow anyone else into our world that may hurt us again.

Do we really want to spend our lives pushing others away?

Do we realize what we are doing to others by ‘protecting’ ourselves?

We are leading others down the same dark path as we assume our defensive posture. We cannot continue nor allow others to suffer alone. We must not let these brothers or sisters think that no one cares for them. They are carrying a sign around their neck that is printed in bold letters “HELP ME!”

Will we as leaders, friends, and believers take the time to speak words of comfort?
Will we take the time to listen to them?
Will we take the time to care?
Will we shine His light into their darkness?

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

For if we don’t take the time we may live with the regret of the results of their collateral damage, their wasted lives, or the memories of what we should have done to try to help.

Would we want to be treated as they are being treated? Don’t we realize that their behaviors are a cry for help? Who will help them? As leaders we cannot ignore their silent cries that says more than words can ever say.

We cannot ignore them no more than a person hanging from a fiery window screaming for help. Those that we know who carry these burdens are trapped at a fiery window and only those in their fellowship, those closest to them, will be able to make the rescue if they act in time.

Take the time to share Jesus with them. Be the brother or sister that they need when the call comes in. Don’t wait, respond and make the greatest rescue: The rescue of a broken heart.
Andy J. Starnes