NVFC Participates in Summit on Firefighter Depression and Suicide

Tuesday, 02 August 2011

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) held a Summit on Depression and Suicide in the Fire Service in Baltimore, MD, on July 11-12, 2011. Tom Miller, the National Volunteer Fire Council’s (NVFC) Director from West Virginia and a Licensed Professional Counselor, attended on behalf of the NVFC. The NVFC has expanded its initiatives in mental and behavioral health over the last few years, including offering a Behavioral Health Workshop in five states this year.

The NFFF Summit was designed to focus on the NFFF's Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, especially Initiative #13, which states that “firefighters and their families must have access to counseling and psychological support.” The Summit brought together representatives from the NVFC, International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC),  Fire Chaplains, the North American Fire Training Directors, the National Association of Women in the Fire Service, the Firefighter Veteran’s Network, the NFFF, and some of the nation’s leading researchers on the subject of suicide and depression including professors from Harvard, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Florida.

Presentations were made on the data available for the general population as it relates to suicide and the identified root causes. Suicide trends across various demographics were presented, although there is a lack of data specific to firefighters and/or first responders. The IAFC has begun to collect data and the Palatine (IL) Rural Fire Protection District’s Assistant Chief Jeff Dill has started a web site to help collect data to assess the impact on the nation’s fire service. Anyone with information about a firefighter/first responder who committed suicide is encouraged to send the information to Chief Dill at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The summit’s discussion focused on determining the root causes of suicide and the lack of hard data on the number of firefighters who suffer from depression and/or commit suicide. The City of Chicago revealed that it has lost 37 firefighters to suicide since they started tracking the trend and Montgomery County, MD, has lost 17 firefighters to suicide in the past 13 years. Phoenix, Toronto, and other cities indicated similar trends with the numbers apparently steadily increasing over time. There was a consensus that the lack of a centralized national database that tracks firefighter and/or first responder suicides hinders the ability to fully understand how significant the problem is and/or may be.

The NFFF will be following up the Summit with a report on the discussions as well as a formalized strategy for moving forward.

Learn more about the NFFF’s Life Safety Initiatives at www.everyonegoeshome.com/initiatives.html. Find additional resources for firefighter health and safety at www.nvfc.org/health_safety.

 

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