|RIP - Cookie, they miss you more than you|
could have ever realized.
And now I am looking at it from a very different perspective. That of a spouse of a firefighter.
My husband has suffered through depression for nearly all of adulthood. There were periods of time where I had to force myself to think about how I would raise the boys alone, because it was a very real possibility. Through a TON of hard work, he is now at a place that he can not only cope and function with his depression, but can thrive and help others learn as well. He is now working with the department to reach out to our firefighters, even when they cannot reach out for themselves. They completed a department wide training that was VERY well received. My husband was happy to back in front of a classroom, I think. He has also continued his own training on HOW to meet these needs in the fire department. And the training of the entire department will continue with a house by house training. It is very real and they are taking it very seriously.
It makes me happy that they are addressing the elephant in the room. I know it is uncomfortable and sometimes you feel like you can't breathe because of it. But, none-the-less it still needs to be discussed.
Depression and suicide among emergency personnel is a very real issue. Our department has had a rush of incidents that cried out for attention from the department as a whole and they have responded to it. Our firefighters see things everyday that Chicago Fire would never dream of putting on prime time TV and they are expected to just be okay. Many don't talk about it at home because they feel the need to protect US from the atrocities they see on a daily basis. Many don't talk about it at work for a myriad of other reasons. And often times work is the last place the depression is seen. So many of our firefighters put all their effort into being "okay" at work, that when it is seen there, something REALLY has to be done. NOW.
As my husband has done his research, he has found that the go-to guy is Jeff Dill. He is an assistant chief (I believe) out of southern Illinois, founder of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance. As I read through his data and information, it is quite staggering. In the past 10 years, suicides among firefighters has surpassed the HUNDRED years prior. Now, truth and accuracy department. Suicide has not always been okay to talk about. It still is uncomfortable and many families still don't address it. These numbers reflect the REPORTED suicides.
On the surface it contradicts the core beliefs of firefighting: Courage, Honor, Self-sacrifice, Confidence, Strength.
- Most FF suicides have been active firefighters, under the age of 50.
- 70% were carried out by white males.
- Majority were deaths by firearms.
- NINETY PERCENT suffered from one of the following conditions - depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia, bi-polar, anxiety, or other mood disorders/phobias.
Create a support network for YOURSELF. As I said earlier, this journey is soul sucking. Make sure your faith community is involved - for you, make sure your friends are there so YOU have someone to talk to. If you need counseling because you are struggling to get through this - THAT IS OKAY! Get the help you need, as well.
Firefighters, if you think you are struggling, accept the help. It is not a sign of weakness. No one will question your skills. It is a sign of your HUMANITY, which can be lost in this world you are part of. There is always a better path than suicide, even if you can't see it. Sometimes you have to let someone else in, no matter how hard it is or the fact that it totally scares the crap out of you. Reach out to your wife, your boss, your brothers. REACH OUT TO SOMEONE. You are not alone.
- FireStrong.org has a great section regarding suicide.
- Again, Jeff Dill has an amazing site, please do check it out. His questionnaire is something I wish I would have had all those years ago when my FF was struggling so desperately with his demons.