According to an article published on August 23, 2018 on Forbes.com, “More Firefighters Committed Suicide in 2017 than died in the line of duty”. The article also stated that the Journal of Emergency Medical Services reported, “In a 2015 survey of more than 4000 first responders; that 37% had contemplated suicide and 7% had attempted it. That is more than ten times the rate of the general population”. Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FFBHA) has also stated they estimate only 40% of firefighter suicides are voluntarily reported.
These statistics are devastating and unfortunately, seem to only be on the rise. Being placed in dangerous situations, experiencing death, injury and traumas regularly, the lack of sleep, or even dealing with aging and loss of the physical ability to do the job through dealing with a loss of identity can increase the risk of stress and trauma associated injuries.
As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, I know simple additions to our environment can encourage follow through of intended behavior change. The more apparent something is and the easier it is to access the information, the more likely someone is to retain the information. Additionally, I know there are simple and effective behaviors one can implement daily to reduce the effects and injuries caused by stress and trauma. We have the information; we just need to get it to the right professionals. This is where I can assist…
As a Fire Wife, I know the importance of providing this information to first responders, law enforcement, military and hospital staff. I also know that while resources are becoming readily available, not all will feel comfortable seeking help or voicing that they are struggling with their mental health. This is why I feel an alternative is needed. An alternative that individuals can implement on their own without asking for help, as asking for the help is often the barrier to receiving help. It is imperative and as they say in the field, we cannot leave anyone behind.
Some of the behaviors we have helped change:
Increase in hours of sleep, increase in positive thoughts following traumatic incidents at work, increased positive communication with a spouse or significant other, increased calmness throughout the day, increase in exercise and overall wellness, decrease in alcohol consumption or other substances, increase in living according to values and goals, decrease in spending and an increase of budget utilization, an increase in overall organization.