At last year’s NFPA Urban Fire Forum, fire department chiefs took turns recounting for the group how they had dealt with the pain and shock in the aftermath of one of their firefighters committing suicide. Sadly, it wasn’t an uncommon experience.
“It was stunning to hear how every current and retired chief had dealt with the issue of firefighter suicide,” writes Gregory Cade, NFPA’s division director of government affairs.
In his new “Outreach” column in the July/August issue of NFPA Journal, Cade looks into the issue of firefighter behavioral health and where opportunities exist in government to address the problem. For instance, legislative efforts are underway to provide worker’s compensation benefits to first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder. Cade is also currently speaking with members of Congress and staff members at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to explain the scope of the problem and brainstorm what can be done to help.
Cade’s column is in part a response to “Trouble in Mind,” a feature article published in the April/May edition of NFPA Journal about behavioral health in the fire service. Acknowledgement of the problem is long overdue, he says.
“We’ve seen the value of providing mental health support following large-scale incidents,” Cade says in the column. “We need to expand those efforts to responders who may suffer from the long-term effects of smaller, continuous impacts that can build quietly until they explode.”
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