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Mental health: Pandemic takes toll as suicides rise in Florida

Former firefighter cites sheriff's deputy for saving his life
Suicide prevention calling number on phone
Posted at 11:23 AM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 00:00:54-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A local father is sharing his story to help others and raise awareness of mental health issues impacting our community.  

"I worked too much. I dedicated my life to my job but not to my family, so I felt I was better off without them. I thought they were better off without me," David Bradley said.  

The 35-year-old father said he lost his teenage brother and a close friend to suicide last year.  

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"The only person that recognized my downfall was my wife. I didn't recognize it," he said. "I was hellbent on doing what I felt I needed to do, and there was no changing my mind."  

The now-retired firefighter credits his wife and a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputy with saving his life last July.  

"He saved my life that day. I attribute everything to my wife and him that day," he said.  

Increase in suicide numbers in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast from Jan. 2020 to Oct. 31, 2020 to Jan. 2021 to Oct. 2021
Suicide numbers have increased by more than 30 percent in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast since last year.

Bradley now chooses to tell his story in the hopes of helping others as figures released by the Medical Examiner's Office in Palm Beach County show a 31% increase in suicides this year from Jan. 1 through Oct. 31.

The Treasure Coast saw a similar 32% rise.  

"People are sad, and they don't know how to deal with it, and they don't know where to turn," Bradley said.  

Patrice Schroeder with the 211 Helpline said she believes the pandemic is making things worse.

Numbers show people reaching out for help for mental health and addiction problems increased 10% in the first year of the pandemic. Through September of this year, 211 Helpline is already on pace to surpass last year's total health crisis calls.  

Mental health and addiction problems increased 10% in the first year of the pandemic
Mental health and addiction problems increased 10% in the first year of the pandemic, according to 211.

"The economic climate, the health care crisis, I think all of this is driving this. It puts a lot of stress on families and individuals with their mental health," Schroeder said.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor Vassilia Binensztok thinks there is post-traumatic stress from the pandemic.

"I've been seeing a lot of people with increased anxiety, panic attacks," Binensztok said. "There are many people that wonder if they’ll ever be able to live the life they want, provide for their families in the way that they want, and all of that contributes to a sense of hopelessness."

Letter to deputy from David Bradley who was suicidal
David Bradley penned a letter to the deputy that he credits with saving his life.

Bradley recently penned a letter to the sheriff's office to thank the deputy for giving him and his family a second chance.

"I believe in my heart of hearts he saved my life that day, and he needs to know it," Bradley wrote. "I owe him everything."  

Help is always available if you are in need of assistance.  

You can call the 211 Helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.  

Click here for more resources for you or someone you know who might be at risk of suicide.

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