May is Mental Health Awareness Month; and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) is doing their part to spread the word about the behavioral issues associated with the post traumatic shock disorder (PTSD) that firefighters often experience.
Behavioral health is a hot topic in the fire service today, and rightly so. Firefighters are perceived as big, burly, fearless warriors; but lately we are learning more about the hopelessness, shame, guilt or destructive thoughts that haunt many first responders. Stress, depression, anxiety and exhaustion are some of the risk factors the NVFC wants fire personnel to pay attention to, and address.
NVFC's Share the Load™ program highlights suicide, job burnout and recurrent issues in an effort to raise awareness and reduce mental health issues among firefighters. Additionally, news stories like this one from Minnesota spotlight psychological issues within the fire service so that the general public is aware of first responder trauma. Training within the industry, the community and the healthcare realm will go a long way in supporting firefighters, EMTs and paramedics. NVFC’s Share the Load™ program provides access to a helpline, newsletters, ads, reports, online courses, and resources.
NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program calls for access to a behavioral health program that provides assessment, counseling and treatment for stress, anxiety, and depression. The goal of behavioral health programs is to change the culture of the fire service, help people to identify the warning signs, eliminate any stigma associated with mental health issues and asking for help, and provide assistance with retirement planning.