June 15, 2020
As the battle against COVID-19 persists, the struggle to balance the reopening of communities with our efforts to remain vigilant against this pandemic continues. Since the outbreak, life on and off the job has fundamentally changed for fire and EMS personnel throughout the United States and Canada. In recent weeks, peaceful civil rights protests followed by community unrest have only added to the acute stress that members face on the job.
While communities look towards the future, many concerns are still front and center for fire and EMS personnel:
We each have our own way of responding to life’s challenges. Resilience is often thought of as the ability to bounce back from life’s adversities or to withstand loss or change. Given the high rate of occupational trauma, the inherent stress of the job and the toll on family life, we know that fire and EMS personnel are an incredibly resilient population.
However, during a pandemic even the most seasoned crew members may begin to crumble under stress, while others seem to thrive. Decades of research have identified several key protective factors that predict human resilience (Southwick and Charney, 2018).
Whatever your approach is to self-care, know that you are not alone. You are connected to a brotherhood and sisterhood that care deeply for your emotional and physical health.
Now more than ever, understanding behavioral health issues that impact fire service personnel is necessary. While in-person behavioral health trainings are suspended through 2020 due to COVID-19, it’s never too early for your department to start planning for 2021:
Don’t forget to visit the IAFF COVID-19 Toolkit for updated PPE guidelines, decontamination protocol and important information for IAFF members during the COVID-19 crisis. Check out the Behavioral Health Resources tab to access:
The IAFF Center of Excellence is a residential behavioral health treatment center for IAFF members struggling with addiction, PTSD and other co-occurring mental health problems. The Center remains open to serve IAFF members while continuously adapting patient screening, contact precautions and isolation protocols as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Lauren Kosc, MA, LCPC, is a behavioral health specialist, a licensed mental health clinician and a blog writer for the International Association of Fire Fighters.