How Peer Support Helps

Author: IAFF Staff

May 21, 2018

It’s no secret that working as a fire fighter or paramedic can be emotionally and physically stressful. Throughout the course of a career, a fire fighter may witness mass casualty events, injuries to children, natural disasters and unspeakable violence. In the wake of all this trauma, a stable support system is incredibly important — both in personal and professional environments.

IAFF Peer Support Program

While personal support can vary from fire fighter to fire fighter, professional support has traditionally been lacking. But not any longer. The IAFF peer support program helps IAFF members from across the country work through the difficulties inherent to the fire service, overcome adversity and find professional help if necessary.

Educate Fire Fighters and Paramedics About Mental Health

It can be difficult to spot a co-worker in psychological distress and know how to respond without the proper training. During peer support training, IAFF members learn to identify when a co-worker might need additional support and quickly and carefully intervene.

Peer support firefighters engaging in the program in the woods

Improve Communication Between Co-Workers

Being in the fire service is like being part of a family. After all, you and your co-workers eat together, sleep in the same station together and save lives together. While this can foster a deep sense of closeness and camaraderie, it can still be difficult to broach tough topics, such as personal challenges with substance use or behavioral health.

Peer support provides an open, accepting platform for these conversations. Instead of wondering how a fellow co-worker will react, fire fighters and paramedics can feel comfortable knowing that there is a designated peer support representative, who has been in their shoes and is willing to listen to and understand what the fire fighter is going through.

Connect IAFF Members to Community Resources

Even if a fire fighter or paramedic feels comfortable opening up to a co-worker, the co-worker may not know how to respond or feel comfortable doing so. It can be difficult to say the right thing when someone else is in pain, or know which resources to contact if additional help is necessary. Through IAFF peer support training, peer support members learn how to handle these delicate situations. If a fire fighter or paramedic is grappling with a serious mental health or substance abuse problem, the peer support member can direct them to comprehensive treatment options, including the IAFF Center of Excellence.

Trusted confidants are crucial part of mental and physical well-being. If your local or department is interested in Peer Support, consider hosting a Peer Support Training. If you know someone struggling with addiction or mental health issues, reach out to the IAFF Center of Excellence. The facility is designed by IAFF members, for IAFF members, and carefully tailored to the needs of fire fighters and paramedics. Reach out to a representative today for more information. 

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