Straight Talk About Getting Treatment

Author: IAFF Staff

September 26, 2017

You’re an IAFF member and a fire fighter. Most people will never know how hard you work, or see the things you’ve witnessed. Traumatic memories and experiences have a way of sticking with a person over the years, leading some fire fighters and first responders to self-medicate in unhealthy ways. Over time, the weight of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction can become much heavier than any bunker gear.

You’ve likely seen it before. Maybe you have a buddy who goes a little overboard at happy hour. Maybe your colleague doesn’t joke around anymore, seeking solitude over conversation. Or maybe you identify with these (and other) warning signs, and as much as you try to ignore it, you’re just not yourself anymore. If you feel this way, you’re not the only one.

Here are the facts: According to a National Institute of Health-funded survey, 56 percent of fire fighters binge drink, and 1 in 5 struggle with PTSD at some point in their careers. Worse, more than 46 percent of fire fighters have suicidal thoughts. With so many struggling, the natural solution is to get help. But sadly, 92 percent of fire fighters believe seeking treatment is a sign of weakness.

At the IAFF Center of Excellence, we want you to know that asking for the care you need doesn’t mean you can’t handle your career — it means you’re strong enough to know that saying “I need help” can change your life forever. So we’re here to set the story straight about getting help.    

Myth: If I go to rehab, I’ll risk getting fired.

Fact: You can get treatment without losing your job.

Many systems are in place to help keep IAFF members safe and in active status, including chapter 9 of NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, which outlines that “members shall be offered counseling/treatment, because in most cases substance abuse is a medical illness. This standard is designed to prevent members from being removed from active duty status unless a medical condition affects the ability to perform essential job functions

Myth: My supervisor is going to know if I call.

Fact: Calling the IAFF Center of Excellence is totally confidential.

We abide by HIPAA privacy laws. This means all phone calls, emails and any other communications are strictly kept between you and the center and are not shared with anyone, including your colleagues or family members. So when you’re ready to reach out, you can call with confidence — and confidentiality.

Myth: My PTSD will go away on its own. I can stop using substances whenever I want.

Fact: The longer you wait to get help, the more you’ll likely suffer.

This is true of nearly every issue fire fighters face, including mental illnesses (i.e. depression, PTSD, etc.) and substance use disorders like alcoholism and opioid dependence. It’s not worth your physical health or sanity to forgo treatment. If you’re tired of bearing the weight of PTSD or substance abuse, calling the IAFF Center of Excellence will help you turn over a new leaf in life.

What Are You Waiting For?

When you call the IAFF Center of Excellence you’ll speak with a compassionate representative who knows your struggle and can get you the help you need. Your conversation will be completely confidential, and you won’t be obligated to commit to treatment right away. And chances are, you’ll be making one of the best choices in your career. Don’t wait till it’s too late — call us today at [phone number] to get started on the path to a better life.

Know Someone Who Needs Help?

If you know a friend, co-worker or family member needs treatment, you can anonymously reach out to the IAFF Center of Excellence on their behalf, with full confidentiality. Our representatives will coordinate reaching out to your loved one or colleague in a timely manner so they can pursue the treatment they need.

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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