Foundation: Stigma shouldn't keep first responders from mental h - Tucson News Now

Foundation: Stigma shouldn't keep first responders from mental health support

Eliot Cobb (Source: Tucson News Now) Eliot Cobb (Source: Tucson News Now)
Fred Bair (Source: Facebook) Fred Bair (Source: Facebook)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The deadly shooting at La Encantada on Friday, April 14, happened in a public place on a busy night. Now an organization that supports firefighters in southern Arizona hopes there will be a more public discussion about the mental health of first responders.

"This is a shock to our community," said Mike McKendrick, Chair of the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation.

It's the first firefighter suicide in southern Arizona in more than a decade, according to McKendrick. He said the greater Phoenix area has had at least a dozen in the past three years.

Capt. Fred Bair of the Tucson Fire Department shot his ex-wife and Eliot Cobb before turning the gun on himself at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, according to investigators. The ex-wife survived the shooting, but both men died.

READ MORE: Two dead, one injured in shooting at La Encantada Mall

"This was an aberrant act," McKendrick said. "It absolutely cannot be rationalized."

McKendrick, a retired firefighter, said the situation was a mental health issue. He expects stigma played a part in it.

"It's difficult for a first responder who sometimes has a hero mentality to ask for help," he said.

The foundation has worked for years to break down barriers between first responders and the healthcare they need, according to McKendrick. That includes:

  • Access to qualified professionals
  • An agreement with three providers for care within 24 hours
  • Co-pays covered by the foundation

The biggest barrier for firefighters and other first responders is stigma, according to McKendrick.

He said there's more work to be done when it comes to helping the men and women who run to help with emergencies - that they can ask for help, too.

Departments across the country provide some form of mental health programs in order to meet the National Fire Protection Association requirement. McKendrick said every department is different, but he said Friday's deadly situation should be a wake-up call to agencies in southern Arizona that this shouldn't happen again.

"If you see something, say something," he said. "Don't worry about the touchy situation, worry about what's important; and that's your co-workers, your first responders, and certainly, that's your family."

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