than be killed in the line of duty.

But for many first responders, asking for help is akin to admitting weakness.

"That's the hardest part for me, and for I think

a lot of other people in this profession,” said Gomes.

So when he found out about the work of the VFRSS, Gomes was all in.

The classes aim to provide “confidential, nonjudgmental peer support.” In some cases, all that takes is a chat between colleagues. Other times, the help of a qualified mental health professional might be required.

"One of the things that surprised me most about the class was what feels like what would be extremely hard to do, is actually really not that hard,” said Chief Hunter.

“It just takes starting a conversation.”

As for Gomes, he’s no longer just a student. He now teaches for the VFRSS.

"To know that one of my guys had to go through that and he's still standing and he wants to make it better for other people… that's amazing,” said Capt. Mejias, who believes the classes should be mandatory for all first responders.

It’s all about having those discussions, according to Gomes, who doesn’t mind sharing a painful, personal experience, if it will help others find their way out of the darkness.

“It's not a place that I want anyone else to be in."