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IAFF Behavioral Health Program

IAFF Behavioral Health Program

Behavioral Health and Wellness in the Fire Service

Traditionally, medical and physical fitness have been prioritized above emotional or behavioral fitness in the Fire Service.  However, it is clear from the aftermath of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and other disasters that these priorities are now changing. With each passing year, research shows that fire personnel who balance physical, behavioral and emotional fitness have the best outcomes, whether one is looking at adjustment to becoming a fire fighter, ratings of career satisfaction, family well-being, or adjustment to retirement.

There is growing concern about behavioral health issues and the significant impact on wellness. The stresses faced by fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs throughout the course of their careers -- incidents involving children, violence, inherent dangers of firefighting, and other potentially traumatic events – can have a cumulative impact on their mental health and well-being. 

With guidance from the IAFF Labor/Employee Assistance Programs Standing Committee, the IAFF? Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine Division continues to develop resources that educate and supports members on behavioral health concerns. Check back often for updated information on behavioral health programs and resources.

Peer Support

The stresses faced by fire service members throughout the course of their careers -- incidents involving children, violence,  inherent dangers of fire fighting and other potentially traumatic events – can have a cumulative impact on mental health and well-being. Peer support programs have been demonstrated to be an effective method for providing support to occupational groups, including fire fighters. The IAFF Peer Support Training Program is a two-day interactive course taught by experienced peers from the fire service and behavioral health clinicians.

IAFF Behavioral Health Resources

The IAFF has created an Online Behavioral Health Awareness Course. The two-hour course is self-paced and tailored for the fire service. The overview course covers depression, substance abuse, trauma, PTSD, suicide risk and prevention, and strategies for maintaining balance and emotional wellness. Use IAFF login credentials to access the course.

The IAFF highlighted the risks of PTSD in the fire service through its cover story “Bringing PTSD Out of the Shadows” in Fire Fighter Quarterly magazine (Winter 2015).

IAFF national meetings regularly include plenary sessions and workshops to educate members, such as this two-hour panel presentation on behavioral health at the 2015 Affiliate Leadership Training Summit in Anaheim, California. The panel included: Suzy Gulliver, Director, Warriors Research Institute and Professor Texas A&M; Frank Leto, Uniformed Fire Officers Association Local 854; Joe Schulle, President, Philadelphia Local 22; Kenneth Stuart, President, Seattle Local 27; and Patrick Morrison, IAFF Health and Safety (moderator).

IAFF has updated the Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness/Fitness Initiative (3rd Edition) to include a behavioral health component to help departments develop successful and comprehensive? behavioral health programs.

Funded by a FEMA Fire Prevention and Safety grant, the IAFF has worked with researchers from Texas A&M and Baylor Scott & White Healthcare to offer new resources on suicide awareness and prevention, including SOPs to use following a suicide.

Important Behavioral Health Links

  • Phoenix Fire Department’s FireStrong website has behavioral health information for the fire service
  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ National Center for PTSD is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800- 273-TALK (8255) connects callers to local crisis centers and has information on suicide prevention.

Questions about the IAFF Behavioral Health Program?

Contact behavioralhealth@iaff.org


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