Losing a Brother or Sister to Suicide

Author: IAFF Staff

February 26, 2019

Chances are, you know of a local fire department that has been impacted by suicide. You may even know a firefighter who has died by suicide.

While awareness of suicide and other behavioral health problems in the fire service has grown dramatically in recent years, taking a deeper look at the issue can yield more questions than answers.

Currently, there is no reliable, national tracking system for firefighter suicides. This means we have no way of knowing the actual rate of suicide among firefighters, if that rate is increasing or decreasing or if firefighters are at a higher risk for suicide than the general population.

While we don’t know the full scope of suicide among firefighters, here’s what we do know. According to a 2018 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate among the general U.S. population increased between 1999 to 2016.

There are clear risk factors associated with suicide. Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that individuals will consider, attempt or die by suicide:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Presence of mental health conditions
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Major losses (relational, social, work or financial)
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Family history of suicide
  • Access to firearms or other lethal means

If you have been impacted by the suicide of a fellow brother or sister, see the information in the IAFF Fire Fighter Suicide: How to Cope with Grief and Loss literature. This resource can help you better process the suicide, understand why people die by suicide and identify normal emotional reactions you may experience after losing someone to suicide.

If you are considering suicide, tell someone immediately. The Firestrong Firefighter Family Crisis Support Line (1-844-525-3473), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) or Canada Suicide Prevention Service (1-833-456-4566) are available 24 hours a day to take your call.

If you are not in immediate danger, but are struggling to function at work or home — it may be time to ask for help.

The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Treatment Recovery is a comprehensive, residential treatment center designed exclusively for IAFF members struggling with PTSD, complicated grief, substance abuse and other co-occurring behavioral health issues.

To determine if treatment at the Center is right for you, call (855) 999-9845 today for a free, no-obligation and confidential screening.

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