Submitted by Jeff Hughes, OC Firefighters Local 3631 Wellness Agent
Last month was National Mental Health Awareness Month. To help break the stigma of mental or behavioral health, the California Professional Firefighters created a Behavioral Health and Suicide Awareness Safety Stand Down and asked all the fire departments in the State to participate.
Firefighting is the second most stressful occupation, only after combat soldiers! Firefighters think about suicide or attempt suicide at a rate ten times the rate for the public. Also, national surveys suggest that nearly one in three Firefighters has considered suicide, and since 2017 more firefighters have committed suicide than have died from a traumatic line of duty death!
Preventing suicide in the fire service starts with each and every one of us checking in on our own, having the uncomfortable conversations and opening the door to breaking the stigma that speaking up is a weakness. Make a concerted effort to set aside time to conduct exercises and initiate a conversation on mental wellness.
The OCFA has resources that can help! It’s up to us to be proactive with our people rather than reactive, especially when a matter that could have been addressed early is now a big issue, and success and positive long-term outcomes are harder to achieve.
FIRESTRONG.ORG and the OCFA Wellness App are the easiest way to find resources for a friend or member in need (or for yourself). One click to find peer support team members, OCFA chaplains, or contact information for the Counseling Team International. Lose the stigma and offer help to a friend or coworker who might need it!
Click or scan the QR code below to download the OCFA Wellness App: