Former officer rides for mental health awareness for first responders

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 7:42 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - It’s no secret that first responders have stressful jobs, but you may not know is just how many first responders die by suicide.

From Boston, Massachusetts to Charleston, South Carolina, Christopher Lowrance, is riding to reflect the hundreds of first responders who have died from suicide.

He’s peddling almost 1,100 miles.

“Mental Health in law enforcement is such a stigma attached to it and for all first responders,” said Lowrance, a former law enforcement officer for 28 years.

Lowrance said just last year, more than 150 officers were reported to have died by suicide.

“Unfortunately, I’ve known other brothers and sisters that have taken their own lives, said Jim Gormley, a retired law enforcement officer. “A combination of things, but I mean what they see and do on the job has a lot to impact that,” said Gormley.

This year Lowrance’s “A Penny For Their Thoughts” bike ride’s mission is to help address this issue with hopes to change that.

“Through a career in law enforcement and first responders, every call you go to you pick up a piece of the call,” said Lowrance. “Some calls have bigger pieces than others. So over the course of your career, you pick up a whole lot of pieces”

Although those pieces may not weigh a lot, a career worth of those pieces can often take a toll on many.

“The pieces get heavy from time to time, and we want people to know that there’s somebody they can go and not be ashamed to go do it,” said Lowrance.

Money raised from the ride will go to BlueHelp, a nonprofit providing mental health assistance and training to police officers.

It’s also a resource for families who’ve suffered a loss of a law enforcement family member by suicide.

Gormley said he’s fortunate to support the cause because it once hit close to home.

“I, myself, 16 years ago had those thoughts in my head. By the grace of God, God saved me, and since then I’ve made it my mission to help anybody I can,” said Gormley.

“It’s okay not be okay,” said Lowrance. “For first responders, it’s okay to have issues and to deal with them. What’s not okay is not going to get a little bit of help with it.”

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