EDITOR’S NOTE: Some of the content in the embedded video might be disturbing to some viewers. This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
YORKTOWN, Ind. — The Yorktown Fire Department is taking a popular social media trend to an emotional, yet powerful new level.
The all-volunteer department collaborated with local filmmaker Hayden Goldsworthy to produce an eight-minute video for a “Lip Sync Challenge.” But instead of doing what many organizations have done — make a goofy, costume-filled parody of a song — their video is more serious and highlights a troubling trend among groups of first responders: suicides left more officers and firefighters dead last year than all line-of-duty deaths combined.
The video shows local emergency personnel lip syncing to a series of songs. Meanwhile, the camera pans to scenes reflecting the devastating things first responders see every day on the job, from traumatizing car crashes to deadly house calls. Later, the video reveals how those hard days affect them when they’re off-duty and at home.
Near the end, Yorktown’s assistant fire chief Ben Strunck connects the content to the big-picture issue and reads some statistics. Last year, 243 firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel reportedly took their own lives.
“If we have one, it’s not talked about enough, but to have 243 we can confirm, that’s a pretty big number,” Yorktown fire chief David Boone said.
Miriam Heyman, a co-author of the study reported in USA TODAY in April, said the numbers of suicide among emergency personnel are extremely under-reported. Forty-six officers were fatally shot on the job in 2017 nationally, almost 67 percent less than the number of suicides.
Some warning signs, as listed by Strunck in the video, include:
- Talking about or looking for ways to die or kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
- Acting anxious, agitated or reckless
Boone said local officials had been tracking the national statistics for about three or four years, but last year’s statistics made them decide to do something to raise awareness. The department stepped out of its comfort zone and into the spotlight so a light could be shined on the issue.
“With the popularity of the Lip Sync Challenge, along with just coming off the tail of Suicide Prevention Month, we thought if we could shoot for that it could catch attention and take off,” Boone said.
Goldsworthy, a Yorktown High School and Ball State graduate, is responsible for the producing the video. He has worked in film for nearly six years. Having grown up in Yorktown, this particular project was already going to be special. Then he heard the idea.
This was his first Lip Sync Challenge. He had hoped to create one. He just assumed it would be a fun, one-day video. This video ended up taking about a month to finish.
“This is the first project in a long time I wanted to go home and I wanted to work on it all day long,” Goldsworthy said. “It reminded me of why I got into this.
“Seeing all the outpouring support from it makes it all worth it.”
Less than 24 hours of being posted on Facebook, the video garnered more than 20,000 views and 1,000 shares. Goldsworthy and Boone both said they have received dozens of calls and messages from those providing positive feedback.
Boone said he’s thankful for the responses. It shows the department is doing what it intended, bring attention to an ongoing issue.
YFD asks viewers to share its video on Facebook. “If we help one person, then the video was well worth while,” Boone said.
Audrey Kirby is a reporter at the Star Press. Follow her on Twitter @ajanekirby, and email her story ideas: [email protected]