How this Virginia deputy is working to reduce the suicide rate among first responders

Posted at 12:51 PM, Sep 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-18 12:51:36-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and statistics show law enforcement officials are more than two times more likely to die by suicide.

This is something that Henrico Sheriff's Deputy and president of the Virginia Law Enforcement Foundation (VALE) Keith Culver is working to change.

"There's a stigma in the first responder community that as first responders, we're not supposed to need help," Culver said. "We're supposed to give help.”

The 30-year law enforcement veteran has responded to thousands of emergencies over the course of his time in uniform, but there are some calls he’ll never forget.

“I was with Henrico Police 20-plus years ago, and to this day, I remember the first suicide I went on," Culver said. "And it's very distinctive. I remember the sights, the sounds, the smells of the body and everything. So, it's stressful."

Culver said these scenes are heartbreaking, but so are the dozens of others they respond to every single day.

The sad reality for his fellow men and women in blue, they are also more likely to have thoughts of suicide.

In fact, since November 2022, at least six Virginia police officers have died by suicide, according to VALE.

"Law enforcement officers are three times more likely to take their own life than be killed in the line of duty," said Culver. "Twenty-five percent of law enforcement officers in their career will consider suicide at some point."

Virginia Law Enforcement Foundation (VALE) president Keith Culver
Virginia Law Enforcement Foundation (VALE) president Keith Culver

"With other professions, when they go through something like that, you know, they get they get a lot of time off, they get to take time off and recover," he expressed. "Police officers, firefighters, EMTs, once they finish that call, they go right back to work."

That’s why Culver and VALE are holding a free First Responder Wellness Fair for the entire community at the 5.11 Tactical Store in Glen Allen on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"We have a lot of different mental health resource organizations that are going to be there to discuss how to deal with stress, how to cope with stress and look for the signs of PTSD," Culver said. "And some of the organizations we have are coming for physical fitness. We have a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym that's gonna come and give examples of how to work out and take care of yourself physically, not only emotionally or mentally as well."

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