Emergency responders are often called heroes for saving lives.
During his career as a Pocatello Fire Department paramedic, Dustin Hale did just that every shift.
Although he’s no longer an emergency responder, Hale’s still saving lives in a different but just as important way.
Hale recently made public his struggles with post-traumatic stress injury, also known as PTSI, related to his work as a paramedic. He’s had the courage to tell the world that he contemplated suicide and nearly killed himself.
We don’t discount the guts it took Hale to talk to the media about one of the darkest chapters in his life. The vast majority of us don’t talk about that kind of inner turmoil even with our friends, let alone sit down with a reporter to make it all a news story.
But by revealing how he overcame his suicidal thoughts, Hale has certainly done his part to save many others who have the same thoughts and inspire them to get the help they need to overcome their own demons.
Since telling his story to the media, Hale has heard from emergency responders who’ve said as much.
Suicide is a problem of epidemic proportions locally, across Idaho and nationwide.
A day doesn’t go by in Bannock County without at least one person attempting suicide and sadly every week the Pocatello area sees at least one suicide death.
We all know of someone who’s taken their own life and oftentimes such deaths are impossible for those left behind to understand.
Locally, suicide impacts the young and old, everyone from young mothers with children to successful educators to emergency responders like Hale.
Not even the rich and famous are immune to falling into the kind of deep depression that can cause suicide.
We’ve all been shocked to hear about celebrities who seem to have it all who then decide to end it all.
Equally disturbing was the recent news about the suicide deaths of two teenagers who survived last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Sydney Aiello and Calvin Desir witnessed the deadliest shooting ever at a U.S. high school. Seventeen people, mostly their classmates, died and another 17 were wounded.
It’s incredibly sad that even a year after the mass shooting, what happened in Parkland is still claiming lives.
What we experience as human beings obviously has a profound effect on us, and traumatic events can lead to a downward spiral ending with a decision to harm oneself.
People fortunate enough to survive a mass shooting can feel the heavy weight of survivor’s guilt on their soul.
Paramedics thrust into life or death situations every shift can burn out and agonize over the patients they didn’t save.
The best we as a society can do is to motivate those thinking suicidal thoughts to get help, and oftentimes this requires simply paying attention to those around us, noticing something’s wrong and giving a fellow human being that hand in the darkness to pull them out of their deadly depression.
By telling his story Hale is helping countless others with similar pain.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention one other person regarding Hale who quite possibly saved his life by noticing something was wrong.
Pocatello Fire Department Capt. Andy Moldenhauer realized that his co-worker Hale was in a dark place and went to his house to make sure he was OK. During the visit, Hale told Moldenhauer that he had been holding a gun to his head and was seriously thinking about committing suicide.
Moldenhauer provided the emotional support Hale needed to get help and for that he’s just as much a hero in this case as is Hale.
The American Red Cross recently honored Moldenhauer with an East Idaho Real Heroes Award for his role in helping Hale. Coincidentally, Hale won the same award in 2016 for searching a residence filled with dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and helping to save the life of the man inside the home.
Sadly, Hale’s PTSI caused him to give up his career as a paramedic.
Hale’s days of responding to emergencies with the Pocatello Fire Department might be over, but he’s still the hero he always was.
Saving lives by talking about how he almost took his own.