Focus on Behavioral Health: National Suicide Prevention Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, providing an opportunity for fire/EMS departments to conduct needed behavioral health and suicide prevention training for leaders and personnel, remind first responders of available resources, and develop plans for continuing suicide prevention efforts throughout the year.

The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA) web site shows there have been 56 firefighter suicides in the U.S. this year alone. This number represents those that have been reported to the FBHA, and the actual number is likely much higher. The tragedy of firefighter suicide affects the entire fire and emergency service community, and we must all work together to prevent future tragedies through education, awareness, and creating a culture where firefighters feel comfortable seeking help when in need or offering help to those in need.

The NVFC developed the Share the Load program to help fire and EMS departments address behavioral health and suicide prevention, as well as provide resources for first responders and their families who need help or know someone in need. These resources include:

  • Fire/EMS Helpline, a free, confidential helpline available 24/7 to provide support to firefighters, EMTs, and their families. Call 1-888-731-FIRE (3473) to receive compassionate, non-judgmental support for a number of behavioral health issues, such as addiction, depression, suicide prevention, stress or anxiety, relationship issues, work-related concerns, or any other issue affecting your work or personal life.
  • Suicide in the Fire and Emergency Services: Adopting a Proactive Approach to Behavioral Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention, a report that explores various firefighter/EMT behavioral health concerns and identifies resources and best practices for mental wellness and suicide prevention in the fire and emergency services.
  • Preventing and Coping with Suicide in the Fire and Emergency Services, a three module online training course that examines the signs and symptoms preceding suicide, highlights available resources for departments and individuals, and discusses the healing process when coping with a firefighter suicide. This course is available through the NVFC’s Virtual Classroom.
  • Helpletter, a newsletter that features articles from subject matter experts and fire service veterans who provide tips, tools, and resources to help first responders take a proactive approach in addressing many behavioral health issues.
  • Resource Center that provides a compendium of tools, resources, organizations, and programs to help individuals and departments address behavioral health and suicide prevention.
  • News Archive of articles that provide tips, resources, and information regarding a variety of fire service behavioral health topics.

Find all of these resources and more through the Share the Load program at