TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The tragic deaths of a Hillsborough County deputy and a St. Petersburg firefighter by suicide are prompting mental health advocates to urge people to get help for themselves, a friend or a loved one.
St. Petersburg Fire Rescue discovered firefighter Todd Rosenberg, 40, died by suicide Tuesday night and leaves behind a family. On Wednesday morning, Hillsborough County Deputy Terry Strawn, 58, killed his wife, daughter, and granddaughter, and then himself.
“I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to change the culture of America, that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay answers calls for help 24/7.
“I think that nationally we are certainly seeing statistics where more first responders are dying by suicide than in the line of duty,” said Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
Before someone picks up the phone, it may take a relative, a friend or coworker noticing the signs.
“Things like maybe they're more angry than they normally are, or more anxious, they're depressed. They are giving away items,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds said it’s important for you to ask that person if they are suicidal and actually use the word suicide to help them know you recognize what they are going through at that moment.
“Those are very powerful, and then just to be able to be in the moment with that person, listening to what they have to say, encouraging them to talk, talk about what you're feeling,” said Reynolds.
And once they open up to you, offer them help like calling 211 for access to resources. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
“I think you can be really honest and transparent. And I think when you tell an individual ‘I'm worried about you. I care about you. I'm not an expert in this, but I can tell that you're hurting,’” said Reynolds.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay said it has answered more suicide calls this year than in years past. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said it has developed a suicide awareness program that every employee will take in January. And St. Petersburg Fire Rescue and St. Petersburg Police have access to peer support groups or other counselors.
You can find more information about the signs and symptoms of suicide and how to help at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.