Putting Out the Fires

There’s an epidemic of firefighters saving lives while risking – and taking – their own.

Courtesy of Treatment Solutions Network

Heroes at Heart

When a fire ignites or an accident happens, we panic and call 911. The first sight of a firefighter, usually the first to arrive in an emergency, can elicit the strange and amazing feeling of, “It’s okay… everything will be okay.” And so many times, because of that firefighter, it either is okay, or it will be. We recoup, we recover, we move on with our lives.

But what happens to the life of a firefighter after he or she saves yours?

We all like to think of firefighters as invincible superheroes – it helps bring us comfort if and when we need them. But they’re definitely human, and they’re in the thick of death, murder, car accident aftermaths, and beyond. The physical and emotional horrors can take place on a daily basis, and firefighters knowingly risk their lives in the process; after all, it’s all part of the job.

Traumas & Stressors

It’s been pretty difficult to track the number of suicides among firefighters, as well as police officers and paramedics. That’s either because most states fail to track suicides by occupation, or if they do, it’s according to deaths that occur while on the job. However, research and studies show that there is an epidemic of suicides among firefighters. It’s staggering to think that these men and women, of all people, are sadly among the most susceptible.

In 2003, Firechief.com posted a great article about this issue and explained:

“Suicide, which is defined as intentional self-harm, is the 11th leading cause of death among Americans. The group that is most likely to die from suicide is white males, who account for 72% of all completed suicides. White males and females combined account for 90% of all suicides. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among white males ages 20 to 34, the fourth leading cause of death among white males between 35 to 44, and the fifth leading cause of death among white males ages 45 to 54.”

The author went on to mention non-demographic risk factors that contribute to suicide such as divorce, the presence of firearms in the home, and lifestyles with high stress levels. She also pointed out the similarities between the above percentages and the firefighter demographic, noting most firefighters are in fact white males within all of those various age groups, who are also at high risk of divorce, exposure to trauma, high stress levels, and depression.

What We’re Doing

Each day, we here at Treatment Solutions get calls and emails from people who are in trouble and need help, and we’re equipped with the passion and tools to do so. Oftentimes, and as we see here, those who dedicate their lives to help others are in turn the ones in need.

If you or someone you know is a firefighter and has drug addictions or not, suicide is not the answer. We are here to help, spread awareness and put an end to this tragic and all-too-common plague.

Our Very Own Firefighter

Michael Blackburn is Treatment Solutions’ Senior Vice President of Business Development, but he’s also a retired firefighter from the Providence, Rhode Island Fire Department with the rank of Battalion Chief, and a member of the Rhode Island Fire/Police Union. With certifications as an Employee Assistance Professional and Labor Assistance Professional, and in Acute Traumatic Stress Management, he is also a Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselor and Substance Abuse Professional. Mike is passionate about assisting those with addiction or mental illness, and his experience as a firefighter and with PTSD/Critical Incident Stress training is paramount to our efforts.

We’ll be going more in-depth and covering a variety of help topics surrounding this issue, from Behavioral Health to first-hand accounts from firefighters who have dealt with depression and PTSD, and anything else we can do to provide assistance to these real-life superheroes.


Not Without Warning

The National Volunteer Fire Council has partnered with Treatment Solutions Network to offer a Member Assistance Program. Stay tuned for more information on this program and how you can access free assistance resources in the next Dispatch newsletter.