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A retired female police officer who served on both the Westford and Chelmsford Police Departments, spelled out the challenges faced by first responders in the line of duty, at a recent gala organized by Westford’s Team Forever Young.
The public safety professional, Kristen Leary, drove home the importance of helping first responders get through the emotional trauma of seeing death and injury in their police and firefighter roles.
“Breaking the stigma for police, for fire, for paramedics, it has to be there,” said Leary. “We have to be able to speak our minds, and not be afraid to lose our jobs. We have to be able to take care of our first responders, or they won’t be able to take care of us.” [Continue below]
Video by Patty Stocker
Westford has not been immune to these tragedies. In 2009, Billy Duggan, a Westford police officer for more than 30 years, took his own life. The incident left a scar on Westford resident Nancy Cook who, 10 years ago, mobilized a suicide prevention group she called Team Forever Young. The group has raised $500K to date, according to Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, including more than $100K from Team Forever Young’s Out of the Darkness Walk in Philadelphia last year. These 16 – 18 mile dusk to dawn journeys raise awareness of suicide.
Suicide rates in the United States jumped by 33 percent between 1999 and 2007 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Massachusetts, they rose by 27.4 percent between 2005 and 2015, according to the Mass.gov website.
Following a blessing by Rev. Peter Quinn, Collaborative Pastor of St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Westford and St. Anne in Littleton, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, a Westford Democrat, addressed the audience.
“It’s an honor to be here shining a light, bringing hope to those affected by suicide,” said Trahan.
Other speakers included:
Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Tara Greeley, AFSP Area Director
Jackie Zegowitz, Team Forever Young member
Joyce Pellino Crane contributed to this article.
Video by Patty Stocker
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