Families of Fire Fighters in Recovery: What You Need to Know

Author: IAFF Staff

July 13, 2018

It may come as no surprise that the fire fighter you’re close to struggles with behavioral health issues. After all, they spend most of their time saving others from tragedy. The burden of rescuing others is a heavy one to bear, especially when compounded by trauma.

As a family member of a fire fighter, you have the power to support the fire fighter you love as they manage a mental health or substance use disorder. While the process can be difficult, these three key support concepts can help your loved one begin lifelong recovery and get back to the career they love.

Addiction and Mental Health Issues Are Common Among Fire Fighters

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 43.6 million American adults experience some form of mental illness, and 20.2 million struggle with a substance use disorder. When compared to the general population, rates of addiction and mental health difficulties are even higher among fire fighters.

Fire fighters are exposed to trauma and tragedy daily. This may promote the development of mental health conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. To cope, some fire fighters turn to drugs or alcohol and go on to develop substance use disorders. Others may develop an addiction after they’re prescribed opioids for an injury they incurred on the job. In 2016, 24,325 fire fighters were injured on the fire ground. With powerful painkillers, the rate of opioid addiction is staggeringly high, even among those taking the medication as directed by a doctor. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), between 8 and 12 percent of patients prescribed opioids develop an opioid use disorder.

Fire fighter putting out a first floor house fire

Recovery Will Take Time 

It’s natural to want your loved one to move forward from a substance use or mental health disorder as quickly as possible. If they’ve struggled with a disorder for an extended period, you may be eager to rush treatment to reconnect with them. However, progress in recovery is slow for many individuals. It will take time for your loved one to fully understand the roots of their internal struggles and build new, healthy habits that promote lifelong well-being. If they’re enrolled in a professional treatment program and working through their issues, be patient. Allow them the time and space needed to heal, and support them in any way that you can.

Professional Treatment Is Key to Lasting Wellness 

While you may believe that your loved one can overcome their behavioral health or substance use issue on their own, the truth of the matter is that these conditions are extremely complicated. Many people need professional treatment for PTSD, depression, anxiety or addiction to see lasting improvements and maintain lifelong recovery. Fortunately, there are professional substance use and mental health treatment facilities, including the IAFF Center of Excellence, that can help your loved one with behavioral health or substance use issues.

The IAFF Center of Excellence is a comprehensive, dually licensed behavioral health and substance use treatment facility designed by fire fighters, for fire fighters. During care, your loved one will receive treatment specially tailored to their unique needs as an IAFF member, while surrounded by peers and staff who understand their unique struggles. Your family member doesn’t need to suffer any longer — the first step toward a better life is only a telephone call away. Reach out to a representative today for more information.

Medical Disclaimer: The IAFF Center of Excellence aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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