First Responders Facing a Growing Mental Health Crisis from Years of Seeing the Unthinkable

Workman's Comp doesn't cover Treatment for PTSD

Megan Vila's brother, Stephen LaDue, was a firefighter for the City of Tampa for 29 years.

But it was the last year that proved to be the most damaging.

"I can’t imagine what my brother was going through. He was haunted by the things he saw over his career .. and he ultimately ended his life on September 5, he killed himself," she says.

Months before Stephen took his life he witnessed a retired captain suffer a heart attack and die right in front of him.

That triggered all the haunting calls he ever went on, and for a father of three, it was the ones involving children that haunted him the most.

Now his sister Megan is trying to change Florida's Workman's Compensation Law, which currently does not cover Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for first responders.

"Unfortunately the way the state law is set up, you have to have a physical injury, so his claim was denied and he was forced to go back to work and pay back the time he missed.

Had my brother running into a burning building broke his ankle and come out, he would have been covered to get treatment. 

But because this was a mental injury he did not get the treatment he needed," she says.

Megan believes if her brother got more treatment, there's no question he'd still be alive today.

"It’s truly a tragedy that my brother isn't here today, and he was loved by so many amd touched so many people's lives," she says.

Lawmakers appear to be listening, filing two bills expanding coverage for first responders with PTSD.

"I urge all the general public to contact their local representatives and urge these bills to get passed this year," she said.

"It was important and he loved and many people loved him and I don’t want this to happen to anyone else," says Megan.

The bills are in both the Florida House and the Senate.

According to the latest data, firefighters are three times more likely to die from suicide than to die in the line of duty.

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