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In 2018, the founder, Jessica Lamb, began raising suicide awareness for Police, Correction Officers, Fire, EMS, 911 Dispatchers, RN's, Active Military and Veterans. Being a First Responder and Military Veteran herself, she saw the devastating effects of PTSI and depression within the First Responder and Veteran communities. Wanting to make a difference, Shadows Behind The Badge was created.
Our mission is to raise awareness and combat suicide in our First Responder, Active Military and Veteran communities by providing a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional therapies including service dogs for our Veterans. It is time to de-stigmatize mental health and well being within our First Responder and Military community. Wanting to reduce suicides is one thing--accomplishing it is another. It can only happen when mental health becomes a priority and all ranks accept the means as necessary to accomplishing the end. Saying, "Get help when you need it" isn't enough anymore. We need to say, "Get help BEFORE you need it".
When I was 16 years old I was a junior in high school and as I was sitting in my A&P class, I watched the second tower of the World Trade Center get hit by the second plane on TV. It took all of us a while to comprehend what had just happened but that day is when I decided I was going to join the military. 3 months later I turned 17 and figured out a plan for me to graduate high school in 3 years so I could join ASAP. Finally, December 18th, 2002 I went to bootcamp. Joining the military was the best decision I ever made as a young adult. My time in came with a lot of emotions...joy, heartache, sadness but overall, pride.
Fast forward several years...I got married to a Marine and we were stationed at Camp Lejeune. During my time as a civilian I decided to become a volunteer firefighter with a department right outside of the base. Then one day, one of the worst days of my life, a Marine that I knew decided to put the barrel of a gun in his mouth and pull the trigger while standing a few feet in front of me. That moment broke me in more ways than I can explain.
A couple of years later we were transferred to Texas for my now ex husband to do recruiting duty. This is when I became an EMT. After being on the ambulance running 911 I continued to see things that no person should ever have to see. Deaths from car accidents, deaths from suicide, murders, etc. All ages from infant to the elderly. I told myself it’s part of the job. Push those feeling way way down until you don’t have feelings. More time went by and then....my partner on the ambulance took his own life. More damage packed on and at this point I feel like I’m a black cloud and I felt sorry for anyone around me.
More time passed and I decided to get off the ambulance full time and become a 911 dispatcher. I thought this would be better than seeing death every day...but it wasn’t. I had to listen to people beg me to save them, their family members or they called just because they wanted to let someone know they were about to kill themselves...and they did while on the phone with me. Being a 911 dispatcher was almost more traumatizing because I was used to physically being there to help them and now all I could do was listen.
Throughout all of this time I was suffering from depression and PTSD. I was having severe nightmares that were so bad I would wake up vomiting. Things got really bad until I decided to get help. I started seeing a counselor and my PCP put me on sleep meds to knock me out so I didn’t have the nightmares...as often. Then within the same year I lost another 3 co-workers that were medics to suicide. This is when I decided to do something to help all first responders.
This is when Shadows Behind The Badge was created. I wanted to help all first responders, active military and veterans who are going through the same things I went through. I never realized the suicide rates among the first responder community until I started researching it. Too many people are dying and I hope that what we do with this organization makes a difference in people’s lives. I feel blessed to have met founders of other first responder organizations who have the same mission. TOGETHER we will help everyone who needs us. If for one moment you think that someone doesn’t understand what you’re going through, remember all of the things I just mentioned. I get you. I understand. I’ve been there. Let us help you!
I have been in Law Enforcement since 2010. My love and passion for the job quickly grew when I first put on that head set and started dispatching as a 911 operator. After a couple of months I started seeing life in a whole different way. All the officers that said it would change me were right....I hid my pain from all the horrible calls I had taken with a new sense in humor...my cover up I guess you can say....after a couple of years...I needed more...I wanted to be there on the scene with my brothers and sisters in blue instead of just hanging up the call and never knowing the endings good or bad. I graduated the police academy in 2016 and it was the best feeling in the world. After being an officer for a college I wanted more..So I decided to become a Deputy. What an adventure!!! My first year I had been a first responder on scene for more than 7 deaths. Suicides, accidents, unattendeds and not to mention the sexual assault calls in CID. I have cried countless times on the way home at the end of shifts and wanted nothing more than to come home to my family. I have felt the pain and wish my heart was big enough to absorb all the demons and loneliness of our fellow officers that are no longer with us due to suicide.
I absolutely love how I have been able to mentor people and answer the call. Community policing is one of my best attributes and love connecting with my brothers and sisters in blue in any way. I strongly feel the need to remind everyone how critical it is to understand what it means to be part of an organization of any kind. I have been privileged to be a member and to be part of such a great organization like Shadows Behind The Badge. We as people are always representing some kind of organization. Whether it is a school you attend, team you play for, sorority or fraternity you are a part of, or company you work for, or even your family. We are for the most part, if not always, part of something greater than ourselves.
When you are branding yourself with an organization; it is and should be treated with respect just as if it was your family.
Now let me say, it is an honor to be part of Shadows Behind The Badge. Being an active member has taught me that and so much more. To take pride in the organization you represent, respect them, respect other members, and most importantly respect yourself. As you go forward in your life, do keep this in the forefront of your mind and work hard to act in such a way as to always show your best self.
I'm a small town girl, that moved to the big city when I turned 18. I had a passion for law, and received my Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice, while working a healthcare job. I decided to stay in healthcare, but still love keeping myself educated on laws and statues. I am married to a wonderful man named Jim. He is a Marine Veteran who served in the Gulf and was a Police Officer/Homicide Detective for the City of St. Louis for about 17 years. I would say that we have an extremely rock solid marriage, and people who know us would agree. We have been a team since day one. We are far from perfect, but we are perfect for each other.
Around the end of 2017 I started noticing some changes in my husband. Around that time we had a lot of protesting happening in St. Louis and it was extremely stressful for both of us. He was on mandatory shifts and I was in fear everyday to what might happen to him. The beginning of 2018 was when it was obvious something was really wrong. I begged him to see someone, and he did, but he still says that he only did it for me. Whatever the reason was, I am just thankful that he did start seeing a Counselor. We soon found out that he was suffering from PTSD, depression, and anxiety. During this time is when I also found out that my husband had been struggling with depression for many years and had previously had thoughts of suicide.
The diagnosis of PTSD was probably the hardest to comprehend. But as a team, we pushed through it and I started educating myself. During this time, we thought we were all alone. We did not talk about it to family or friends. So we truly only had each other. With the therapy he started to heal. He learned coping techniques from his amazing counselor, that I believe truly saved his life. We are now working with one of our partners to train our German Shepherd to be my husband's service dog.
In July of 2019 I saw a Facebook post from Shadows Behind the Badge. It hit me so hard. It was the first time that I actually believed that we were not alone. I sent a very short message (which I still have today), asking if there was any way I could help, especially for spouses. It is very important to know that support from spouses, family, and friends is crucial. We are usually the first to notice the signs. I then started a small and still growing private First Responder Spouse Support Group.
I knew that I wanted to help others, but what I didn't know was how much my husband and I would also be helped. We were finally not alone. We finally felt the support and love from strangers. We realized that there are so many others just like us. So after a lot of long conversations with Jessica, the founder, I knew I had to be a part of this amazing organization.
My husband and myself still have a struggles, but those days seem to become less frequent, and now we are better equipped. And we are fighting through this together. We now can be the voice for those who aren't ready to speak out. Every single one of us with Shadows Behind The Badge, and our partners, have the same Passion. We have the passion to raise awareness and help as many people as we can.
So if you took the time to read this, and need help, please reach out! We all have different stories, but we have all been there. We are a family and we got your six!
I am a former Police Officer of nearly 10 yrs experience. My duties as a Police Officer included Field Training Officer, Narcotics Detective, Evidence technician, Detective and Corporal. I believe my experience as a Police officer greatly helped in my knowledge and understanding of mental health and human behavior.
It quickly taught me, what appears on the surface is quite different than what's on the inside. It also taught me how our environment, experiences, genetics and culture play a role in our development and behavior. When ever I made an arrest or handled a call, I knew there was a reason for the particular person(s) behavior and choice and I wanted to be more of a help.
This thought was the impetus for my goal to become a Mental Health Therapist. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Maryville University and my Master of Arts in Counseling and Certificate for Psychological Examiner from Missouri Baptist University. I specialize in providing therapy to First Responders, children, adolescents, young adults and adults who are experiencing Anxiety/OCD, Depression, Grief/Loss, Trauma/Abuse and Computer/Electronic Addiction.
While undercover, I was shot in the line of duty and mortally wounded the suspect. I know first hand the daily demands and traumatic effects of police work.
My involvement with Shadows Behind the Badge started with a post with Jessica requesting photos for the SBTB page. “What do you need?”
“It’s for first responder suicide awareness. I need individuals or whole stations to take pics in uniform holding a sign about suicide. ”“When do you need them?” “By the end of next week.”
I think that conversation was on a Thursday or Friday night, it was still not a lot of time. I knew I could count on my home Squad, the Greeneville Emergency and Rescue Squad, for help so there was one to start with. I sent out requests for help to other local departments as well. Within minutes I got replies form Jeremiah and George stating their departments were in and available within the timeline.
It was time to get the camera gear ready and my wife made the first sign that said, “Suicide does not end the chances of life getting worse, Suicide eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better”. Those first photos created excitement in other departments which made for a couple of busy months. I got other departments to volunteer and Jessica was setting me up with other departments in the region for more photos. I was spending a lot of time taking and editing photos. Shadows Behind the Badge was getting a lot of reach and exposure with Jessica’s quote that went along with the pictures. The supporting departments and agencies were also getting free photos. It was a win for all involved.
It all changed with one message. Jessica messaged me one night saying she got a call* about one of the posts. An emergency responder was having a difficult time, saw one of the department photos and reached out to SBTB for help. A photo and some text changed a man’s path. We made a difference.
I joined the Squad for a variety of reasons. First was an opportunity to do something side by side with my son, Rob. I have always had a strong desire to serve and I had a few things to prove to myself. I’ve been a volunteer of some sort most of my adult life and a few of my teenage years however it’s not been until the last 6 years that I’ve been a true emergency responder. I have 6 years with the Squad, my first year as a probie and the remaining 5 as a full-time member. Those 6 years made me into a different person, changes that have made me a better person.
My love for photography started back in high school when I took at photography class and filled in for the yearbook staff with sports photography. I also had a short stint as a photography assistant which means move that heavy equipment up several flights of stairs and back down again! Somewhere along the line I got busy with other things and the camera only came out at birthdays and special occasions.
I credit my wife with getting me back into photography by getting me a DSLR for our 20th wedding anniversary. About the same time, I was able to slow down with other activities and was able to practice more with the camera. It all came together during a disaster preparedness drill when I begged out of being on one of the squad trucks and was able to cover the event with my camera. I was hooked! Ever since then I work to cover multiple departments and emergency services with the camera.
What I saw through the lens was the human side of the job, the pride and sometimes the struggles with emergency responders performing their job. Capturing the human side was the hook that drew me in and keeps me searching for opportunities to document the men and women of emergency services. I’ve been on a variety of calls; some are good, and some are bad. Because I’m a perfectionist I analyze each of those calls in minute detail. Did I pick the quickest route to the incident? Did I gear up fast enough? Did I pick the right tools, say the right thing to the patient or family? The list is long as there are options for the rescue, ask my Captain. None of that came to mind when I got the message that we made a difference. The only thing I could think is I took a photo that changed someone’s path, it was something as simple as a photograph. I wasn’t worried about the lighting, the composition or the other endless details that I could have been obsessed about. I was just proud I made a difference.