In this Beyond the 1st Response episode, Christy and Ciara spoke to Kelly Klaber, a mother whose life changed instantly and found her First H.EL.P. family.

A Mother’s Pain 

To say we had the honor of speaking to Kelly is an understatement. This was the first time since Brittany took her life that she had told their story. 

February 12th, 2017, a mother’s worst nightmare unfolded. Kelly was notified that Brittany had died by suicide. Kelly shared with us how her days and weeks unfolded after. What she learned about Brittany’s mental state and how Brittany didn’t want her to know how much she was struggling. 

Kelly found out after receiving Brittany’s phone that Brittany had reached out to the crisis line but was put on hold, so she never was able to talk to anyone. She was trying so hard to help herself and seek help. She was having trouble with her medication, she was reaching out and talking about how she was feeling. So what happened? We may never know, but we all agreed the lack of training for a mental health crisis within the department(s) was apparent. She said “keywords”, and had that been a civilian on a call there was a protocol in place. But, for a dispatcher in mental crisis, there was nothing. 

The Department’s Grief

Kelly shared with us the supervisor and how she tried to help Brittany with the tools she had. How they spoke about Brittany’s mindset and the supervisor cared about Brittany. She shared the EAP information with Brittany and respected what was asked of her not to do. We talked about how Brittany’s suicide could have affected her, and we hope she carries no guilt. 

We commend Brittany’s Georgetown Scott County department for all they did for the family. They honored her just the way she deserved and helped the family with genuine compassion. They continue to honor and remember Brittany to this day. 

This is something all departments should be doing after they lose a first responder to suicide. Their death should never be treated differently than another first responder’s death. PTSD (I) are real and these are the conversations we need to be having on how to prevent more suicide, how we can help those who are struggling, and help them see that they are not alone. We need to see more training established in departments on how to recognize mental struggles amongst their co-workers, listen for those keywords, and give the space for people to say, “I am not ok, I need help.” 

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