When I Knew I Needed Help

Author: IAFF Staff

July 16, 2018

Being a fire fighter or paramedic isn’t easy. While some days are filled with triumph, others hang heavy with the weight of trauma. Between the ups and the downs, it can be difficult to stay mentally balanced. As a result, many in the profession develop mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. Others may turn to the comfort of substances, such as alcohol and drugs, to cope with their stress.

If you or someone you know has one of these conditions, you know how difficult they can make everyday life. Personal relationships, professional success and your well-being can suffer in the face of addiction and mental health difficulties. But no matter how hopeless you may feel now, help is closer than you think. One step toward a better life is realizing that achieving one is possible.

Closeup of a fire fighters face covered in ash

Every fire fighter or paramedic in recovery had a moment when they knew they needed help. A moment when they finally realized the extent that their trauma or substance use was impacting their life, and resolved to do something about it. Every day, representatives at the IAFF Center of Excellence hear the stories of men and women who have decided to get the care they need. Maybe their moments of clarity will resonate with you, and help you realize that it’s time to for you to seek help, too.

We’ve heard countless fire fighters and paramedics say things such as, “I knew I needed help when:”

  • “I started forgetting birthdays, anniversaries and appointments.”
  • “I made calling out of shifts a habit.”
  • “I felt distant from my spouse.”
  • “My children stopped asking me for help.”
  • “I felt intense anxiety when I didn’t know where my next drink was coming from.”
  • “I realized I was using drugs or alcohol on all my days off.”
  • “I couldn’t go to a work function without overindulging in drugs or alcohol.”
  • “I couldn’t have a conversation with my spouse without getting into an argument.”
  • “I couldn’t sleep.”
  • “The nightmares wouldn’t stop.”
  • “I felt anxiety whenever I went into a crowded area.”
  • “ I couldn’t stop replaying a bad call.”
  • “My loved ones told me I had a problem.”

If any of these statements resonate with you, it may be time to get the help you need. Making the decision to seek professional care can be scary, but it’s always worth it. While countless treatment centers across the country can provide you with comprehensive care for your condition, only one was designed by fire fighters, for fire fighters: the IAFF Center of Excellence.

The IAFF Center of Excellence is a treatment facility exclusively created for IAFF fire fighters and paramedics. With a full continuum of care and individualized treatment plans, the Center is a respite from the stresses of work for those struggling with a mental health disorder. Help is available, but only you can take the first step toward recovery. It all starts with a call. Reach out to a representative today for more information. Your call is toll-free and completely confidential.

We can help. Call 240-545-5141 or

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