Since 1997, I have been a devoted mental health advocate. I want to tell everyone that first responders and our veterans go through mental health issues as well.

What do you think when you hear sirens? The majority of people want to watch what is going on.

Years ago, when I was fighting a fire, people stood on the sidewalk and watched for hours. Some were concerned about the fire, others just wanted to be nosy. But when the first responders are doing a service, whether they are volunteers or paid professionals, they face a danger and see things that others do not. When you are watching first responders at a scene, think of how they are feeling and what is going through their minds.

If it is a call involving a death, first responders may hide their emotions, but it is as hard on them as it is everyone else. It is especially difficult when it is one of our own. We are a dedicated, tight-knit family that sticks by each other.

The last few months have been very difficult for all first responders and law enforcement personnel, with the passing of fellow responders, both here and abroad. We experience depression and post traumatic situations as well.

Our veterans have gone through many battles to keep our freedoms. There should be free mental health to all our veterans and military men and women and their families to help and prepare them for the transition to the civilian lifestyle.

Diane McElhoes

Indiana

NAMI member and mental health advocate

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