In the past few years, suicide rates for firefighters have been climbing. The government doesn’t track employee deaths that happen off duty, but the firefighting community has felt the trend more in recent years.
Jessica Gardetto is a spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. She says that the profession of firefighting can be really mentally straining, but also points to societal problems as a whole.
“Wildland firefighting can be a very intense and/or stressful profession," Gardetto says. "It’s also a profession that can mean you’re away from home and from your family for months at a time, and then when fire season ends, it’s sort of an abrupt end.”
The symbol of a firefighter as tough and unshakable might also contribute to the trend.
“Wildland firefighters, in most cases, are the people that come to the rescue," says Gardetto. "They’re the people who are strong and mentally resilient. They save homes. In some cases they save lives. They’re not typically the type of people who want to reach out for help.”
NIFC has expanded upon previous mental health programs, as well as embraced newer initiatives to increase dialogue and offer counseling to firefighters.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is (800) 273-8255.
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