In 2017, more first responders died by suicide than in the line of duty. The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance estimates that only 40% of firefighter suicides are reported.
The Department of Justice recently released a report to the Congress in response to increasing suicides among law enforcement and other first responders. The DOJ that found that 2 successful ways to lower suicide rates were using support networks, such as peer-to-peer programs, and creating an environment to lower the stigma and fear around asking for help.
Resources and support networks
First responder organizations are trying to change their cultural views on mental illness and related stressors by creating programs to help departments and individuals.
- The National Fallen Firefighter Foundation's Everyone Goes Home program provides a guide to help departments know what to do if a member shares they are thinking about suicide.
- The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance offers behavioral health workshops to fire departments, EMS and Dispatch organizations across the globe. The workshops focus on behavioral health awareness with a strong emphasis towards suicide prevention.
- The National Volunteer Fire Council's Share the Load Program offers resources to those seeking help and assists departments as they implement or enhance a behavioral health program.
- The Code Green Campaign provides first responder-oriented mental health advocacy and education.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has resources for suicide prevention among the healthcare workforce.
There are several crisis hotlines available. Consider posting this information within your organization.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- National Volunteer Fire Council's Fire/EMS Helpline PDF: 1-888-731-FIRE (3473).
- Safe Call Now, a confidential, comprehensive, 24-hour crisis line and support service for first responders, emergency services personnel, medical professionals and their family members nationwide: 1-206-459-3020.
- Suicide.org lists individual state helplines.
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: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times