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‘Ask for Help:’ Husband of First Responder Speaks Out after She Took Her Own Life

SACRAMENTO -- Suicides among first responders are not uncommon.

It's a pain Marc Zayas knows very well.

"She was incredible. She did a lot in her short amount of time," Zayas said, remembering his wife, Chelsea Fox.

Zayas' 36-year-old wife was a former firefighter and veteran 911 dispatcher for the California Department of Forestry for the past 12 years. She excelled at her job but with that came overwhelming stress, chronic back pain and issues with opioid addiction.

"We're dealing with people on their worst day," Zayas said. "They don't call 911 for anything. So, you're dealing with someone on their worst day."

That stress ultimately led to her to take her own life last month.

"But that kind of became her life," Zayas said. "She had a lot of bad days and it just finally became too much."

A recent study shows that there were at least 103 firefighter suicides and 140 police officer suicides last year and those are just the ones that were reported. In contrast, 93 firefighters and 129 police officers died in the line of duty.

Marc says first responders are great at providing help for others, but not for themselves.

"A lot of people don't tell anybody when they're going through something and they just don't want to be that weak link," Zayas said. "And it's OK to do that. It's OK to say you're having a problem or you're having trouble. Ask for help, it's OK."

"There's just always this overwhelming pressure to be on point, to perform and to feel good, so she was chasing that," Zayas said. "The medication was something that she used to try and keep that appearance."

Zayas said the more people who are willing to talk about suicide the less negativity will surround it.

"I think there's a really horrible stigma around suicide that it's a selfish act," Zayas said. "But it really is purely someone who is on their absolute worst day of continuous days forever."

For those contemplating ending their own lives, Marc says there is hope within reach.

"I hope that if someone is in that position, they try to focus on the good days that they have in between the bad. And hopefully the good days they can still have in the future," Zayas said.

If you or someone you know is in crisis you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255.