It’s unknown how many firefighters die each year by suicide, but fire chiefs and fire service leaders from around the country agree it is a growing concern. While many have looked for information about the issue and how to address it, resources and materials have been limited. Until now.
In its ongoing efforts to provide firefighters and their families with access to counseling and support (Firefighter Life Safety Initiative 13), the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) today released two new guides – one for fire chiefs and one for clinicians who work with firefighters – on understanding suicide.
“Any behavioral health issue brought about by stress can impact the fire service as seriously as a physical injury,” explained Chief Ronald Siarnicki, executive director of the NFFF. “Following a 2011 summit on the phenomenon of suicide in the fire service, we concluded that developing these materials was essential to successfully helping the fire service understand suicide and reduce the stigma surrounding this complicated issue.”
The guide for the fire service leadership will help the user understand the causes of suicide. It also addresses how to prepare others within the department to recognize suicidal behaviors and help steer a person who may be at risk toward getting help. Additional prevention resources are also provided.
“Addressing the behavioral health and wellness of department members is as much a chief officer’s responsibility as any other health intervention like using seat belts, maintaining a healthy weight or not smoking,” said Siarnicki.
The guide for clinicians is designed to help those health professionals who are working with firefighters and their families understand the world and environment of the fire service so they can successfully assist their clients. There are unique stress situations that confront firefighters and EMS responders and these need to be understood.
To download a copy of the guides, Suicide: What you need to know. A guide for fire chiefs or Suicide: What you need to know. A guide for clinicians go to www.everyonegoeshome.com/16-initiatives/13-psychological-support/.
For more information about the NFFF’s behavioral health initiatives please contact Dr. JoEllen Kelly at [email protected].