First H.E.L.P. December Newsletter
A Letter from the President
One of our families recently posted about appreciating every moment because we don’t know how many more we have; I then realized it’s mid-December and the year flew by. Luckily, we had many moments to appreciate in 2023, we are sharing some with you here. It’s so hard to capture them all and being there in person is certainly more impactful than seeing photos. It seems we simply can’t put into words how much your support means to our families and first responders.
With year-end approaching, we want to make sure every family who has lost a first responder to suicide has support and we have recorded all the losses. In 2023, we have recorded the lowest number of suicides since we started in 2016, we truly hope this is the start of a new era. To ensure we are continuing to see improvement, we need to make sure we know of every loss. If you know of any 2023 suicides, please report them to us. Everything we do is strictly confidential, and we will not contact the families without permission. As part of our ongoing data collection, continue to report ALL years and ALL duty statuses. This is incredibly important to the families, the mission, and the continued efforts to change the first responder culture.
As we continue to change the conversation around mental health and stigma, we hope you are caring for yourselves and practicing what we (and you) preach. The #IWillListen campaign never stops, we need to constantly remind others we are here, we won’t judge, and we want to help. To save a life, sometimes all it takes is someone to listen. Please stay safe physically and emotionally.
With love and respect,
2023 Annual Honor Dinner & Family Weekend
August 2023 brought us together again for the 4th Annual Family Weekend and Honor Dinner at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas.
It’s never easy to put into words the meaning of this weekend, but we’ll try. Nearly 200 family members were treated to an all-expense paid trip to learn, heal and honor their loved ones. Each year, we are treated to laughter, tears, love and joy as our families bond over a shared, tragic experience which has changed them forever. Because of this, they have gained a forever family, one who understands and supports them, forever.
We look forward to seeing them all again in 2024.
Scroll through the photos here to see just some of the memories made!
A Special Thank You
During the Annual Family Weekend, the families were surprised with an incredible gesture. Right after therapeutic sessions and just before everyone began to get ready for the Honor Dinner, the surprise arrived at the front doors of the Gaylord Texan.
A custom-wrapped squad car displaying the names of 300 officers that were lost to suicide.
Chief Gang and his awesome team drove this patrol car over 25 hours to Texas all the way from the Pinole Police Department in California just so they could be there in person for these families. Chief Gang spoke about the importance of mental health among first responders and then invited family members to look around, find their loved one’s name, and take photos.
We would like to say thank you to Chief Gang and the Pinole Police Department.
Thank you for honoring these officers.
Thank you for showing up for our families.
Thank you for looking out for your officers’ mental health.
Thank you for your dedication to breaking the stigma.
Think we know of your loss? We might not.
Please help us understand the scope of suicide and find ways to prevent the next one by reporting what you know, any year, any duty status.
By submitting a first responder to our site, you are giving them a placeholder on the Honor Wall until their family is ready to put up a memorial. You are also assisting us as we collect information that helps to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with suicide.
Please submit first responders via the appropriate branch below.
Sharing your story on the Honor Wall
We understand that there is still a stigma attached to suicide, and that’s why every first responder submitted to us is kept confidential in our database unless their family decides they would like to share their story publicly.
We think it is important to honor our first responders no matter how they died. If you would like to share the name, photo, and memorial for your first responder on the Honor Wall, please reach out to [email protected].
Have you checked out our shop?
Freedom Fatigues is a Veteran/LEO-owned and operated, patriotic, family-run company with a love for our country and a desire to serve, give back to and support our fellow citizens. They are proud to partner with First H.E.L.P. to reduce the stigma of mental health.
Through our partnership, we also advocate for benefits for those with PTSD and acknowledge the service and sacrifice of first responders who have been lost to suicide. We also support the families of those first responders and bring awareness to first responders’ mental health issues.
What we’ve been up to!
2024 Holiday Ornament
Each year we surprise our families with an ornament designed by another family member. This year’s ornament was designed by Kim Carrier, the sister of Captain Jonathan Lehto of the Nashua Police Department lost to suicide on September 9, 2019.
“Yes, none of us wants to be part of this group. But this group is what makes the toughest days bearable. This is a group full of so much love.”
With Kim’s words in mind, we thank you for being part of this family and we wish you much love.
#SolvingforSafer with Motorola Solutions
We were privileged to be part of the November 15th NYSE bell ringing to help Motorola Solutions celebrate the launch of their new brand identity, ‘Solving for safer.’The ‘Solving for safer’ message is intended to highlight the evolution of Motorola Solutions and how it is investing in technology, research, development and partnerships that will help to create safer schools, safer hospitals, safer communities, safer neighborhoods — safer everywhere.
“Solving for safer” also resonates strongly with their Foundation partners; organizations focused on creating a safer world by making education, mental health and crisis prevention resources more accessible. We were honored to stand beside Motorola, Safe and Sound Schools and i.c.stars to ring the bell for safety!
Motorola Solutions Grant Partner Summit –
First Responder Wellness
Also in September, Motorola Solutions Foundation held its first Grant Partner Summit focused on First Responder wellness!
The summit provided 17 partners an opportunity to collectively learn, network and collaborate. We learned about fundraising, social media, business development and more from Motorola executives and partners. It was a great experience to learn from other non-profits during the working sessions!
FBI Criminal Justice Information Services –
First-Ever Law Enforcement Suicide Day Event
First H.E.L.P. has designated September 24-26 as suicide awareness days for first responders, September 26 has been set aside as Law Enforcement Suicide Awareness Day.
This year, the FBI Criminal Justice Information Systems held a special event which was broadcast live throughout the Bureau. Karen Solomon, FH President and Molly High, widow of Officer Phillip High, were invited to discuss the impact of suicide on the families, our data collection and available resources.
2023 Chicago Marathon – Sgt. Alonzo Montanya
Sgt. Alonzo Montanya of the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office in Dutchess County, NY ran in the Chicago Marathon to bring awareness to Police Suicide and raise money for First H.E.L.P.
The race was a complete success as he beat his personal best record and was able to honor his brothers and sisters who have been lost to suicide along the way.
After the race, he said that it was a very emotional day but knowing that he was running for the cause gave him the energy that carried him through the finish line.
1st Responder Conference – Ventura, CA
“I was honored to be invited to speak at the 1st Responder Conference in Ventura, CA. I was able to share my story of watching my husband’s light dim over time until it would eventually extinguish by suicide. I told a room of first responders about my walk alongside Erik as he struggled with chronic physical pain from a work injury which led to mental strain and his loss of identity at work and at home. I spoke about PTSD and why, as a society, we do not speak up more to let our inner circle know that we are not ok. So many people came up to the First H.E.L.P. table after to share their own stories of struggle or support and thank First H.E.L.P. for helping to get our message out there in hopes to smash the stigma. I was even able to connect with a vendor during a break and she told me of a suicide in a department in her hometown. I was able to share basic info about PSOB as a way to possibly support the new family and let her know to get that info to the department liaison.”
–Dana Humphrey Jackson, widow of Erik Humphrey
With the support of FirstNet, First H.E.L.P. can maintain the momentum!
Between January 10, 2022, and October 26, 2023, First H.E.L.P. achieved significant milestones, including:
64 #ResponderReadiness Workshops
32 #SupervisorReadiness Workshops
10 #ProviderReadiness Workshops
6 #RANGEofResilience Presentations
3 #FamilyReadiness Workshops
3 #RANGE Facilitator Workshops
11 Train-the-Trainer Courses
These events were made possible through our partnership with FirstNet – Built with AT&T, collectively impacting more than 3,400 participants from at least 389 organizations across 37 states.