First responders have to see things most people don't. They dig for bones in ashes, and see devastating natural disasters, accidents, violence and deaths, local first responders say.
Those stresses can affect the body much like mercury poisoning, said Napa Fire Capt. Ty Becerra, who leads the department's peer counseling program. Traumas accumulate in first responders, and one day, they might get triggered and find themselves unable to function, he said.
"We're exposed to things that the layperson doesn't normally see, and it doesn't make us tougher, it doesn't make us stronger," Becerra said. "When we see some things, they affect us."
Police officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, according to a study from the Ruderman Family Foundation.