But this time, it was no ordinary call. It was a fellow FF.
|Thanks to Paul Combs for keeping this in FD's minds.|
A firefighter suicide.
And that sent shivers through my spine.
Suicide in the fire service is very real and very scary and very much un-discussed in some departments, they just don't talk about it. Others are starting to sort out where to go from here and there are some that are truly working to make sure their FFs are okay - physically, mentally and emotionally. I am truly a lucky FFW to be part of that last group. MFD is aware of the issues, after suffering losses far too close to home, and is actively addressing them. We, the spouses and family back at home, have to realize that our firefighters see things that we can only imagine.
If there is not a support network in place, at home and at the firehouse, they can be consumed by the things that go bump in the night. My FF is part of the team that goes to these FFs and reminds them that they are not heroes with bullet proof suits - immune to the tragedy of their vocation, they are people. They have hearts that break and are not immune to the atrocities that are sadly a part of the job.
My FF, your FF, the Cub on their shift...they are all going to see things and work through things that are going to get to them. And we need to know what we are looking for because that WALL of "Look at Me, I'm a hero, I GOT this", comes down at home, but maybe not at the firehouse...right away.
Please, please, please - know what is in place to support your FF. ASK. MAKE your FF tell you what his department has in place. If he won't tell you because he is trying to protect you, call his boss or call another wife in your department. Be that annoying spouse. Know who you can call and what they can do to help you and your family when your FF is struggling. Know the number for your EAP. Find out if your department has any mental health training in place. Talk to wives - in your department or on-line.
Things to look for, IE Red Flags: (FIREFIGHTERS - I'm speaking to you, too!)
Depression - "The PERSISTENT feeling of sadness and loss of interest." ~Mayo Clinic. Depression can be caused by any number of things. End of a relationship, suspension, injury/illness, death of someone close, family history, meds, etc. This is a sensitive issue in our house and I am very aware of when my FF is going to go down. Sometimes before he is.
Red flags for depression include, but are not limited to:
- Difficulty concentrating or sleeping - either too much or too little.
- Lack of interest in enjoyable activities - used to ride his Harley and now, he won't go when the guys ask him to go for a ride or a rally.
- A feeling of worthlessness
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
- An UNUSUAL amount of isolation at home, the firehouse, department events. Some FFs are just introverts, so it is not unusual that they spend down time alone, But usually they read or work on a project. Now, instead they are sleeping - ALL THE TIME.
- An UNUSUAL sense of sadness or erratic behavior.
- Restlessness - your FF's mind is ALWAYS going, ALWAYS racing
- Sleeplessness - do the nightmares keep your FF from taking the chance that will come? If you don't sleep, the nightmares don't come.
- Then inability to relax and just enjoy life.
- Mental replays - either awake or in dreams - where your FF hears, sees, smells, feels or tastes the events of the that traumatic experience.
- Totally shutting down of emotions. If you feel NOTHING, there's no pain. But, there is also no joy or pride or love felt either.
- appearing depressed or sad nearly all the times
- a withdrawl from friends or family that is out of character for your FF
- a sense of hopelessness/helplessness that seems to weigh on your firefighter's soul
- acting impulsively - giving away possessions - like all of them or the prized possessions - or going on a huge once in a life time trip
- feeling a sense of strong anger, on the verge of or crossing over into a sense of RAGE
- threatening to hurt or kill themselves
- www.firestrong.org - developed by Phoenix Fire department
- Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- National Depression Screening Project - 1-800-520-6373
- Safe Call now - 206-459-3020
- United Health Care "Care 24" - This is open to all UHC members - 888-887-4114
- IAFF Wellness Fitness Initiative
- MFD Peer Support email
- City of Milwaukee EAP (414)286-3145
- Milwaukee County Crisis Unit 414-257-7222
- National Mental Health of Wisconsin (Free online, anonymous screening)