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October 3, 2017
Are you thinking about getting help? Maybe you’ve seen IAFF Center of Excellence flyers around the station. You may know a brother or sister who’s taken the first step. Or, perhaps you’re just sick of loved ones always asking, “Are you okay?”
As a fire fighter, you experience a unique combination of physical and psychological stressors every day, which most people will never experience in their lifetime. You take great pride in pushing through that stress, waking up the next day, and doing it all over again. But when can help no longer wait?
Everyone needs some solo time to reflect now and then. But the persistent desire to isolate from friends, fellow crew members and family is often a warning sign of clinical depression and post-traumatic stress, which will likely progress if left untreated. Research estimates that about 18 percent of fire fighters suffer from post-traumatic stress, three times the national average. In addition to feeling alienated from others, you may experience anhedonia, a profound sense of apathy or feeling “blah” towards activities, interests or relationships you once cared about. If isolation has become a way of life for you, it’s time to make the call. Even though it feels like it, you are not alone.
Most fire fighters can easily recall at least three horrific emergencies they’ve experienced that replay in their minds. While drugs or alcohol may temporally numb these intrusive thoughts, prolonged substance use is clearly linked to a host of other serious physical and mental health problems. Alternatively, excessive gambling, eating, television, exercise and even sex can reflect a desperate attempt to numb one’s pain. You know what is normal for you and what is not. If you’ve noticed an increase in any of these behaviors or they seem to be interfering with your work or family, it’s time to get help.
According to the American Association of Suicidology, 111 Americans die every day by suicide. Thinking about ending your life is never a normal reaction to stress and always a sign of a mental health emergency that needs to be addressed immediately. Common factors that may place fire fighters at increased risks of suicide include untreated behavioral health problems, substance use, increased family dysfunction/separation, and (for some) access to fire arms or other lethal means. We know that fire fighters with post-traumatic stress are six times more likely to attempt suicide. Don’t be a statistic. Be an example by getting help today.
Asking for help takes tremendous courage, but as a fire fighter, we know you have it. If you relate to any of the experiences above and have thought about getting help, NOW is the time. Effective treatment provided by a dedicated team is available right now. Take the first step. Call 855-999-9845
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.