As the numbers continue to roll in one thing is clear, departments are 3 times more likely to experience a firefighter suicide than they are a line of duty death. And as leaders, both formal and informal, we must do a better job of preparing and training new firefighters, providing internal and external support for current firefighters, and providing transitional support to those firefighters who are entering retirement. We also need to address where the issues are most likely to manifest themselves first, at home. This is done by reaching out, offering training, and providing assistance to family members. As leaders, we must be willing to gain an understanding of what kind of stress our personnel are under each day. Stressors such as marriage and family, financial, depression, addiction, and PTSD are caused by compounding issues that include: long shifts; disrupted sleep schedules; staff shortages; injuries; and potentially traumatic events. This program is designed to bring awareness to firefighter suicide, the leading reasons for firefighter suicide, what stress is, and to create discussion on what the research is telling us. This program will review studies and research into firefighter suicide, addiction, substance abuse, and how it affects the firefighter and their marriage/family. We will discuss the tradition of the fire service in relation to this issue and how leadership can directly influence the positive change required to shift the culture to a culture that is more adapt to handle these issues. Finally, we will review a case study from the Newport News Fire Department and provide additional resources to help those who are struggling with stress.
Presented by Sydney M. Lucas