Fire Services

Fire Services

A recent study found that more firefighters and police officers die by their own hand rather than in the-line-of-duty. The nature of the work of firefighters, including repeated exposure to painful and provocative experiences and erratic sleep schedules, can pose significant risk to firefighters’ mental health. Post-traumatic stress and depression rates among firefighters are nearly five times higher than the civilian population. Even when suicide doesn’t happen, untreated mental illness can lead to poor physical health and impaired decision-making. The stigma of mental illness within fire and police organizational culture can stop people from seeking help. Many organizations have developed hotlines and programs to help their employees dealing with stress and depression. Your department can use these programs to build an internal support system for your members. Begin by searching the resources below:

What can I do to address stigma in my organization?

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ryy7EyAiyeQ
    • Fantastic 11-minute video called Firefighters Coping with the Aftermath of Suicide

  • Health & Wellness: Firefighter Peer Support
    • Explains the benefits of the Peer Support Model and the five areas that make it effective for getting firefighters behavioral health assistance.

  • How Leadership Can Create a Healthier Firehouse Culture
    • Addresses what leadership in firehouses can do to create a healthier firehouse culture. Firefighters can be concerned about stigmas, loss of promotional opportunities, and how formal leadership will respond; this article will show leadership how to create a culture change that is more conducive to seeking mental health services when they are needed.

Building resilience helps individuals adapt and overcome the effects of stress and trauma associated with police work. It not only helps us move past these events in a healthier manner, but also gives us positive traumatic growth following the event. Creating a self-care plan helps individuals to improve their immunity, increase positive thinking and make us less susceptible to stress, depression, anxiety and other emotional health issues.

How can I reduce the effects of trauma in my employees?

  • Why Firefighters Need to Practice Self-Care Before Caring for Others
    • Can you name one machine that doesn’t require maintenance? I can’t. Click the article above to learn about self-care and how you can maintain good physical health, even during traumatic and stressful times.

  • How to Build Resilience
    • A brief explanation of what resilience is, the importance building resilience, and ways you can build it to create a healthier and less stressful life.

  • How to be a Resilient Responder
    • Informational guide on how to begin building resilience through a good nights rest, eating, and living well.

  • Self-Care Toolkit
    • When faced with challenges, we can use either positive coping strategies or negative coping strategies. Use this step-by-step guide on creating a self-care plan that will help you practice positive coping strategies.

Firefighters are at a greater risk for developing negative mental and physical health consequences including depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal ideation and attempts. Studies have shown that when firefighters’ physical and mental health issues go unaddressed, job performance decreases, decision-making abilities are impaired, and agency costs increase. In other words, everyone should be invested in maintaining firefighters’ wellness, because it has a direct impact on their ability to be effective.

How can I help my employees?

  • Resiliency Building Programs
    • Fire Services Behavioral Health Management Guide
      • There are many ways that a behavioral health program can be created in a fire department. This guide has created a tiered behavioral health program with four components: leadership, firefighters, peer support and clinical support. For each component, there’re detailed descriptions of their roles and a list of available resources. The tiered structure will help support the overarching need for all firefighters to be knowledgeable about self-care and how to recognize and act on symptoms of behavioral health.

    • Resilience as a Department Cultural Initiative
      • Explains the importance of resilience as an organizational culture, role of intergroup communication to build resilience, major contributors to resilience, and also provides two robust resilience initiatives that have been implemented in other law enforcement departments.

  • Vicarious Trauma Informed Organizations
    • Vicarious Trauma Toolkit for Organizations
      • Vicarious trauma toolkit (VTT) focuses on organizational responses to work-related exposure to trauma. While some resources in the toolkit may be useful to individuals, the VTT is intended to provide organizations with the tools they need to fulfill their responsibility to support staff and become more vicarious trauma-informed.

    • Vicarious Trauma & Fire Services
      • Excellent tools specifically for law enforcement to use regarding organizational strategies for vicarious trauma.

  • Peer Support Program
    • Fire Services Behavioral Health Management Guide
      • This guide seeks to help fire departments by providing guidance and considerations culled from the experience of fire departments across the country. The guide pulls from the experiences of departments of all sizes, response needs, and demographics. It is designed to help departments understand where to start and what considerations need to be addressed through the lens of an individual department’s situation.
    • Supporting Mental Health in First Responders: Overview of Peer Support Programs
      • Overview of peer support programs for your department includes benefits and outcomes of peer support, components within a peer support program, the role, recruitment, and training of a peer support worker, and the challenges associated with implementing a peer support program.

    • Guidelines for the Practice and Training of Peer Support
      • Two sets of guidelines intended for policy makers, decision makers, and program leaders to provide direction about the practice of peer support are provided. We encourage prospective and practicing peer support workers to consider the set of guidelines as a roadmap for personal development, and we encourage administrators to consult the set of guidelines as they develop or enhance peer support programs within their organizations.

Post-Event Responses, such as critical incident stress debriefing, can help you get better. These sessions provide a chance to talk about the trauma with others who were involved. Start by searching the resources below.

Post-Event Response

Continuous training and education, beginning in the academy and reinforced throughout the organization, will reduce the negative consequences a traumatic event will have on your employees.

What can I do to learn more?

  • REBOOT Recovery Trauma Healing Course
    • REBOOT is a 12-week trauma healing course for those within the law enforcement, fire, EMS, emergency communications, hospital emergency departments, and corrections communities. In groups across the country, first responders and their families are healing, divorce rates are dropping, substance abuse is decreasing, and suicide numbers are being reduced.

  • First Responders Center for Excellence Trainings/Resources
    • Several resources and training options for Firefighters and EMS personnel.

  • First Watch Resiliency Building Webinar
    • Resilient professionals are relaxed, engaged, flexible and happy. In this webinar you’ll learn specific leadership strategies to build a resilient team from leading experts in the field.

  • Resilient Wisconsin Hidden Trauma Webinar
    • This exclusive training webcast for first responders from the Wisconsin Department of Health explores adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress, risk factors for trauma and stressors, signs of struggle, stigma, and resources for self-care.

  • Resiliency Training Institute
    • Explore many resilience training courses to help grow your staff’s personal, professional and organizational resilience. Call 1-800-501-1245 to speak with a resilience training facilitator; they will conduct a needs assessment and suggest a resilience skills training program that’s right for your organization. Whether you’re considering a resilience training seminar, a Train-The-Trainer resilience program, or even a resilience keynote they can assist you in making the right selection.