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.
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. TheIAFF 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 IAFFlogin credentials to access the course.
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