Behavioral Health Issues Fire Fighters Face



It’s not all in your head. Ask for help today.

IAFF members witness potentially traumatic events day in and day out. The effects of these experiences linger, leaving many with behavioral health issues that can lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health illnesses. It’s time to face behavioral health issues head on. We’re here to help.
Fire fighters Tending to a semi truck fire
“We are great at taking care of the public, but we are not so great at taking care of ourselves.”
— Frank Leto, FDNY Counseling Unit

Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

There has long been a stigma associated with PTSD. Some worry that it’s a sign of weakness or an inability to handle the pressures of the job. You may think PTSD isn’t treatable, that it could mean the end of your career or that it is “all in your head.” This is simply not true. Anyone can struggle with PTSD, and it is treatable. Together with our doctors and a strong support system, you can successfully manage and heal from PTSD.

Several symptoms can indicate the presence of PTSD

  • Avoidance of situations that resemble the event
  • Persistent mood swings
  • Difficulty performing duties or tasks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Hyperactivity
  • Inability to relax
  • Insomnia
  • Jumpiness
  • Feeling disconnected from friends or family
  • Relationship difficulties
You don’t have to struggle with your PTSD alone. With the right combination of evidence-based treatments and support, you can overcome PTSD.
Fireman Alone

Depression

Depression is more than just feeling sad; it’s a serious mood disorder that can impact nearly every aspect of your life. If you’re a fire fighter/paramedic, the stressful nature of your work makes you particularly susceptible to this condition. Many times, depression occurs alongside PTSD and anxiety. You don’t have to hide your feelings behind a smile or a joke. The IAFF Center of Excellence can help you work through your depression and get back to the things you love.

Symptoms of Clinical Depression

  • Feelings of pessimism or hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Loss of interest in former hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or waking up
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and decision-making
  • Appetite or weight fluctuations
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Restlessness or irritability
Depression may feel impossible to overcome, but it’s not. With targeted therapy and individualized treatment, you can live a fulfilling, happy life.
Fire fighter Looking Away

Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are characterized by feelings of tension, worry and physical changes, such as increased blood pressure. Those with anxiety disorders are likely to avoid situations that worry them, and may experience sweating, trembling, nausea, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat when confronted with these situations. Anxiety and PTSD can go hand-in-hand.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Excessive worry
  • Restlessness or edginess
  • Becoming tired easily
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Feeling like your mind is “blank”
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep problems (insomnia, restless sleep)
Anxiety is treatable with talk therapy and medication. You don’t have to let anxiety get in the way of living your life.

Suicide

The emotional burden of behavioral health issues, combined with substance abuse, can eventually lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. In fact, more fire fighters kill themselves than are killed in the line of duty.

Suicidal Tendencies Among Fire Fighters

A Journal of Affective Disorders study conducted in 2015 of 1,027 retired and current fire fighters and revealed that:
46.8% of fire fighters had suicidal thoughts or ideas
19.2% of fire fighters made plans to commit suicide
15.5% of fire fighters made a suicidal attempt
16.4% of fire fighters harmed themselves but did not commit suicide

Are you experiencing suicidal thoughts? We’re here to help you.

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The Journal of Affective Disorders study concluded that fire fighters experience an “alarmingly high career prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, indicating the need for … increased prevention and treatment efforts among fire fighters to decrease suicide risk.”
  • Chicago: Chicago Local 2 lost seven members to suicide within 18 months
  • Philadelphia: Philadelphia Local 22 lost at least one member per year to suicide over five years
  • Phoenix: Phoenix Local 493 lost four members to suicide within a year
  • Surrey, BC: Surrey, BC Local 1271 experienced a series of emotional losses within a three-month period, including two members who died by suicide.
There is help for behavioral health issues within the fire service. You are not alone, and there are caring professionals who want to help you rediscover fulfillment in your job and in your life.The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery was created specifically for IAFF members in the United States and Canada. Our doctors and clinicians specialize in addressing substance abuse with co-occurring PTSD. Getting help is the first step to rebuilding your life and excelling in your career.
 
 

Help for Fire Fighters is Real.

 You are not alone, and there are caring professionals who want to help you rediscover fulfillment in your job and in your life. The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery was created specifically for IAFF members in the United States and Canada. Our doctors and clinicians specialize in addressing substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Getting help is the first step to rebuilding your life and excelling in your career.

We can help. Call 855-900-8437 or

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