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May 13, 2020
As a fire fighter/paramedic, you are often exposed to traumatic calls many times over the course of your career. These experiences can lead to poor mental health that can affect your professional capacity and personal life. A 2011 study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that more than half of fire fighters reported sleep deprivation and binge drinking, 21% reported poor mental health, 14% reported risky levels of drinking and 11% reported depression.
Some fire fighters may ignore these symptoms hoping they’ll go away. When the added occupational stress leads to issues, including addiction or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health or substance abuse intervention may be necessary. The first step in getting help for a fire fighter may be learning how to hold a successful intervention.
An intervention is a process where a crew or family comes together to confront someone about their addiction or mental health condition and tries to convince them to accept treatment. Sometimes, it includes the help of an addiction specialist or interventionist. The ultimate goal is to convince the fire fighter to accept help, usually in the form of an inpatient treatment facility.
Staging an intervention requires planning and preparation. It should not be undertaken on a whim. It is important that everyone participating in the intervention process is aware of the fire fighter’s struggles and is prepared to share how they have been affected.
The following intervention steps can help:
While it is possible to conduct an intervention without one, a professional interventionist can make the process easier. An intervention specialist has experience with conflict mediation, crisis intervention and addiction and mental health treatment and can provide you with professional guidance throughout the process. For example, a professional interventionist can help you select a treatment program, understand the nuances of addiction and mental illness and decide on healthy boundaries to set. The interventionist can also help keep the meeting on track and de-escalate any conflict that may arise during the intervention. Ultimately, the interventionist provides support to the family and the fire fighter during an emotional time. Contact a local addiction treatment center to find a professional interventionist who can assist your family during this process.
The IAFF Center of Excellence Is Open and Ready to Help
The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery is 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). To learn more about the COVID-19 Center of Excellence Patient Safety plan, click here.
For the latest updates, behavioral health resources and IAFF guidelines for responding to COVID-19, visit www.iaff.org/coronavirus.