Recognizing Suicide Warning Signs in Firefighters and EMTs
Behavioral health is a key component of an overall firefighter health and wellness program. Unfortunately, it is a difficult subject to discuss – many factors affect a firefighter’s ability to understand when a fellow brother or sister is suffering, but that does not make it any less critical an issue.
By far, the number one comment by fire and EMS chiefs associated with departments that have suffered a loss is that they didn’t realize or recognize the warning signs that their member was displaying until after the loss had occurred.
The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA) tracks and validates FF & EMT suicides in the United States. A key component is validation: Whether we receive a confidential report, text message, or phone call of a tragic event of a suicide, confidentiality is always maintained.
FBHA has traveled across North America presenting behavioral health workshops with an emphasis on suicide awareness. Our workshops focus on warning signs and actions to take when a brother or sister is in need of help, and I’d like to share them with you here:
Top 5 Warning Signs – Think “RAILS”
When you see someone struggling or just off their game, follow these recommendations as a starting point:
A “yes” to either one of these questions means you need to engage your department procedures or protocols if in the firehouse. If outside of the department then they need help immediately. NEVER leave them alone!
Posters and tip cards are available for your departments and personnel. Please contact Jeff Dill at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
This article was written by a guest contributor, Jeff Dill. Jeff is the founder of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance - NPO (FBHA). FBHA was established in 2011 to educate firefighters and fire officers on suicide awareness and prevention. Dill holds a Masters Degree in counseling, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and recently retired as a Captain from Palatine Rural Fire Protection District in Inverness, Illinois. He is a member of the American Counseling Association, National Board of Certified Counselors, International Association of Fire Chiefs, and a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Jeff also sits on numerous committees including the Florian Program, IAFF, National Volunteer Fire Council, NFPA, as well as a consultant for the Western Massachusetts Fire Chiefs Coalition.