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Physical and Mental Close Call

June 21, 2017 – Guest Writer, Perry Hall

Bio

Perry Hall grew up in the fire service with his father in North Carolina. He went on to become a career firefighter (large municipal department 500+ members) with over 20 years in the fire service, both as a volunteer and paid firefighter, holding various positions. Throughout his career, Perry obtained a number of certifications, B.A.S. in Fire Administration and is currently very involved as a Fire/Rescue Instructor. Perry is married and is the father of 2 children and 4 step children. Perry’s own cumulative exposure to a number of critical incidents made a huge impact on him personally. Perry encountered one final incident that drastically changed his life and his career. Through his personal experience, he began educating himself and getting involved in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) to learn more about how critical incidents affect emergency responders, education that would have helped earlier in his career. Currently, he is an advocate for first responders and works to educate others about the effects of trauma among first responders and how important mental wellness is for emergency responders.

Department Demographics in 2014

Provides fire and medical response for 144 sq miles with approximate population of 280,000. The 550 member department is Nationally Accredited and ISO Class 1, with 25 stations. At the time of this incident I was assigned as the Captain of an engine company staffed with four personal running an average 3,000 calls a year.

Physical and Mental Close Call – This is my story

May 5th, 2014 was a day that changed my life and the lives of my family forever. I didn’t realize that this would be such a significant day in my life until months later, however I am very thankful to be alive. That B-shift morning started like most others on Engine 8, a nice, sunny, spring morning, riding a couple routine calls before lunch. My engineer and I were the only two normally assigned that day as the two firefighters on the back of my engine were just filling in for the day. Those two strong firefighters played a vital role in my survival that day. We had just finished lunch, still sitting at the table when the call came in. A structure fire was dispatched on the far end of our assigned territory. Three engines, two ladders and one battalion chief were initially dispatched which is common protocol for a single-family dwelling. Our heavy rescue and an additional battalion chief were added to the call once notes pm the MCT indicated a working fire. A neighbor reported a fire in the basement with smoke showing.

We knew the arrival of our company (Engine 8) and adjoining station 10 would be within seconds of each other, with them possibly arriving first. Engine 10 arrived on scene first, laid a supply line, gave a size up, assumed command, and deployed a 1 ¾” attack line for fire attack. Ladder 10 arrived simultaneously with Engine 10, and assumed the role of ventilation. Our company arrived within seconds of station 10 equipment and was assigned search and rescue. My personal size up was moderate smoke showing from the attic and eaves on a single-story residential structure with a basement. Engine 8 personnel departed the truck with hand tools and a thermal imaging camera (TIC) while our engineer assisted the engineer of Engine 10 with establishing a water supply. While we were approaching the structure, I had decided our search plan was to enter division 1 to search above the fire for any viable life. I observed a company forcing the division ‘A’ door, which I assumed was Ladder 10 taking the role of a split assignment (ventilation and forcible entry). At this point I was under the assumption that fire attack was advancing on the fire via a division ‘C’ basement door.

We made entry through the front door with me leading the way, by scanning with the TIC and sounding the floor as we went. Smoke was banked to about two feet off the floor. in a matter of seconds we had completed a search of hallway and living room. I observed a crew with an attack line behind us and after communicating with them they advised the fire was on division 1 and they were attempting to locate. Now thinking the fire was on division 1 I requested vertical ventilation to improve conditions. We continued our search for life and fire, and completed the same quickly, with no fire conditions found. I then advised command we had an all clear with a personal accountability report (PAR). While heading out of the structure I located the door to the basement. Around this time frame it was communicated by ventilation that the fire was in the basement on the division ‘C/D’ side. Upon finding the basement door and with the attack line being on division 1, their quickest option was to descend the stairs to the basement. I advised fire attack in a face to face to manage the door for me while I sounded the stairs for them prior to their descent. It was never my intention to descend into the basement, just to sound the stairs for fire attack since they were without hand tools.

I took approximately 3 to 4 steps down finding the stairs were intact at which point I turned around to exit finding the door to my egress closed. I later learned that command had ordered an evacuation, from the structure, that I didn’t hear transmitted. When the search and fire attack crews exited the structure, they thought everyone was together. With the two crews evacuating together it should have been six personnel; however, I was missing. Once I found the door closed, I could hear Engine 10 on the other side of the door. With only needing the door opened I immediately transmitted on the radio, telling them “they had closed the door on me and I needed it opened”. This was after several failed attempts with my radio receiving a busy tone when trying to transmit. The door was inward swinging to the steps and had no door knob or way for me to open the door. I purposely didn’t call a mayday at first because personnel were on the other side of the door and I needed to immediately relay my message. If I realized they were outside the structure, I would have most definitely called a mayday, even though command was already aware of all my mayday information hearing my transmission (location, unit #, name, assignment, and what I needed). 21

Command immediately contacted Engine 10 confirming they received my request and they acknowledged advising they had cleared the structure, but three personnel (E10 Captain and two firefighters from E8) were re-entering to locate me. At the same time Ladder 52 and Rescue 5 were making entry through the division ‘C’ basement door to locate the stairs. E52 was then assigned as a secondary RIC team. I know of twice during this time I came back on the radio “you have to hurry; I am burning up.” I contemplated breaching the wall; however, I knew from our search that I was between a bathroom and kitchen which would, make it extremely difficult if not impossible to breach. Also my hook was four foot long also making it difficult to breach in a three foot wide stairway. I began beating with all my might with my hook against the door to make noise for the search crew. It never even crossed my mind to activate my PASS; however, my beating on the door is what led the search crew to me. I knew that the door would not open in the conventional way; however, I also never attempted to put my hand under the door to open in which i found wasn’t an option of the fire. At this point visibility was zero with my TIC “whiting out” due to the high heat conditions, the air in my cylinder had become heat saturated making it hot to breath and I felt as if I was being stung by a million yellow jackets. The ceiling overhead stayed intact the entire duration, making my position like a chimney with a cap over it. I knew my only other option was to go down stairs into the basement which I didn’t want to do; however, I couldn’t take more of the beating where I was at.

At this moment, I could hear the rescue crew coming down the hallway, the door swung open and 2 hands grabbed hold of me. We immediately began heading out under extreme heat conditions. I advised command that they had reached me and that we were exiting the structure. Command immediately called for an evacuation and PAR of all crews prior to defensive operations. While the four of us exited the structure I noticed one crew member off to the right as if disoriented. I was able to grab hold of him and pull him back with us. While discussing the fire with him some time later he explained to me that he had become turned around and separated from us. All he could see was a big plate glass window that he wanted to breach due to the extreme heat; however, he was afraid the fire would flash on the rest of us if he did so. This encounter only lasting only a few seconds felt like a life time to him. I cannot explain the feeling of relief and pure adrenalin I was experiencing when I was safe outside and able to breathe in fresh air. Fellow firefighters brought me water and helped me to dress down from my ensemble. I was taken to EMS which evaluated me finding my vital signs extremely elevated. I didn’t have any pain or blisters at this time, just extremely red skin, like sun burn. I sat out in rehab until my vitals fell in normal limits and declined any treatment or transport. I returned to my crew to conduct overhaul operations and looked at the interior layout. After completing overhaul, we dressed down again and I found blisters on my wrists with more forming. I didn’t want to report it to command, but knew the policy and was required to do so. Command requested EMS to respond non-emergency for a checkup. EMS arrived and re-evaluated my vitals which were still elevated somewhat and my entire upper body was blood red. I declined transport but had to report to urgent care for treatment. Once evaluated at urgent care I was determined to have second degree burns on both wrists and forearms, with first degree burns on my upper torso. I was given care instructions, medications and sent home until further notice. After a week, I was able to report to light duty until I could return to full duty.

After returning to work everything returned to normal, so I thought until my mental close call that hit me out of nowhere. You see, prior to this event I had no knowledge or education dealing with mental health personal care, signs/symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in my prior 16 years as a firefighter. I began having trouble sleeping, re-experiencing the fire, nightmares; feeling detached from everyone but my children, depressed, and had become very emotional. I would later understand these all to be signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. On the night of May 27, 2014 I self-medicated with alcohol to suppress my feelings. I was tired of being alone and missed my children I was divorced from their mother, so I headed to a friend’s house. Due to this poor emotional, alcohol influenced decision I was pulled over and charged with driving under the influence. The police officer and police department were very nice, compassionate, and respectful. I was released with a written promise to appear in court.

I didn’t recognize or realize the gradually onset of feelings and emotions. Through the education I have received since that time, I realize my emotional distress during that period. I wasn’t thinking clearly, self-medicating to cope. I realized I needed some help and made an employee assistance program (EAP) appointment for PTSD assistance. The down fall to many EAP resources are that they are not experienced dealing with emergency responders. The makeup and reaction we have is different than that of the general public. This was the case with my encounter, with no fault to this doctor; the experience was just not there. Subsequently following this assistance I made an appointment with a local outpatient treatment center for counseling. I was placed in a 40-hour intensive outpatient program, receiving treatment and coping skills, which has assisted me in living a normal life. Following this counseling I began taking classes on critical incident training, suicide prevention, substance abuse prevention to better assist myself and emergency services. While attending these courses, I found that I needed more assistance with my PTSD and to ensure I had all the needed tools to keep my alcoholism under control.

I searched for months looking for a treatment facility geared towards emergency responders and finally decided on one in Westminster, Massachusetts. I attended an in-patient treatment facility for nine days at the On-Site Academy which is solely for emergency responders and military personnel suffering from various forms of critical incident stress and/or substance abuse. A participant can stay as long as they feel unable to thrive at home. While in the program various activities are provided including but limited to: anger management, group discussions, Alcoholics Anonymous, group cooking, massages, debriefings, one-on-one counseling and Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR). While in the academy, a participate has down time to do as they wish even leave the house for outside activities.

The stigma surrounding our mental well-being in the fire service must change as well the common acceptance of alcohol among first responders as a coping tool. We train to prepare for when an emergency occurs in order to have the necessary skills and be physically prepared; however, we must do the same mentally. This is why I am standing up to share my story, to at least make a dent in this stigma and to show that it is ok to say you’re not ok! We must be able to recognize the warning signs of substance abuse, critical incident stress and risks for suicide in ourselves and our co-workers.

Expert Reviewers:

Kirk Daniels

Ben Thomas

Jessica Hall

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PHENIX TECHNOLOGY, INC. AND IDENTIFIRE SAFETY PRODUCTS TEAM UP WITH FIREFIGHTER BEHAVIORAL HEALTH ALLIANCE

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RIVERSIDE, CA—Phenix Technology, Inc. and Identifire Safety Products are teaming up with the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA) to help address the critical need for fire and emergency medical services (EMS) behavioral health awareness. Firefighters and EMS personnel are engaged daily in traumatic situations causing career-related stress, which is leading to issues such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, addictions, relationship challenges, and suicide. FBHA was established to directly educate firefighters and EMS personnel and their families about these issues and help bridge the resource gap between medical professionals and first responder services.

FBHA provides behavioral health workshops to fire departments and EMS providers across the United States focusing on behavioral health awareness with a strong drive toward suicide prevention and promoting resources available to firefighters/EMS and their families. Specific behavioral health workshops include: An Internal Size-Up, which educates personnel on how to look for signs and symptoms of behavioral health problems, communication, confidentiality, and roles/responsibilities and Saving Those Who Save Others, a workshop focused on suicide prevention and awareness. Additional workshops are directed at spouses and partners and children of firefighters and EMS personnel. FBHA’s sole goal is to promote good mental health for the men and women of the fire service and EMS and their families, as well as making a significant difference in reducing the numbers of firefighters and EMTs who are turning to suicide to ease their pain.

“Most discussions around safety concern the gear and tactics of suppression and rescue. Unfortunately we often forget that a first responder’s safety concerns don’t just begin when the tones go off or when the units return to quarters. Our dialog has to start including the mental health of our brothers and sisters, and we are honored to work with Jeff Dill and his organization to help bring awareness to an often overlooked issue.” says Angel Sanchez, Jr., Phenix Technology, Inc.’s chief operating officer.

Phenix Technology, Inc. is creating a handmade Behavioral Health Awareness traditional leather fire helmet that will travel with the Phenix team during their 2017 Trade Show Schedule. The helmet will be used as a talking piece along with educational material that will be distributed at each show. At the conclusion of the 2017 season, the helmet will be auctioned off to raise funds for FBHA. Identifire Safety Products will be creating a special photoluminescent piece that will be available for sale with all profits going to support the FBHA mission. FBHA will produce a weekly educational piece that all three organizations will be sharing.

“Being on the job long enough, we will all be exposed to some form of PTSD. Whether it’s our own demons, or a brother orsister next to us. We have lost too many already. Time for a change,” says Matt Hyman, CEO of Identifire Safety Products.

FBHA Founder, Jeff Dill, a retired fire captain and licensed professional counselor, has this to say about the joint campaign: “We are honored and appreciative of the support from Phenix and Identifire. We look forward to continuing our mission of spreading behavioral health awareness and working to prevent the issues that in many cases are leading to firefighter and EMS personnel suicides.”

For more information, visit www.phenixfirehelmets.comand www.identifiresafety.com.

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Fire Prevention Month: Firefighters Deserve a Safe and Secure Workplace

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October 17, 2016   Guest writer: Beth K

To commemorate National Fire Prevention Month that is observed every October, firefighters across the nation take to schools, libraries and community centers to educate everyone about the importance of taking preventative measures. The first Fire Prevention Weekwas started to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless. This famous blaze forever changed the way that firefighters and public officials thought about communicating fire safety. On the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, today’s International Fire Marshals Association decided that the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should be celebrated in such a way that would help  keep the public informed and aware of the dangers of fire.

But what of the safety culture – the value placed on both physical and mental wellbeing – in fire departments? Firefighters and emergency professionals risk their lives each day: according to The National Fire Protection Association, every 24 seconds firefighters respond to a fire somewhere in the nation. But safety training often comes in second, and it is oftentimes difficult toimplement a major shift in attitudes about what it means to be “tough.”

Safety is put in jeopardy when firefighters adhere to heroic concepts and do not address the unique physical and mental stressors of their job in a timely manner. Stopping a strong gut instinct and waiting for the right time to enter a building is a mental struggle that only professionals can grasp after many years on the job. Burns, broken bones and other injuries are common for firefighters who don’t put their health first. But professionals must prioritize their own health so that they can continue to help others – including their own.

There are no easy solutions to a firefighter’s daily struggles, but there can be some simple preventative measures. Fire chiefs are where workplace safety starts. Before an emergency call, every professional should be properly geared up with a safety belt across their chests. By taking safety seriously at the firehouse, those concepts can be extended to the field workplace. A fire from the previous day can be the focus of a small meeting. When firefighters can speak about their concerns, their mental well-being can improve. Fire chiefs might note if anyone is having deeper issues with a trauma. Group sessions, professional referrals and other resources may be offered so that everyone deals with the issues in a healthy way.

As mental health comes into the light, more fire-fighting departments are working with their teams to help anyone who needs it. In many cases, every experienced firefighter may need some counseling to deal with the day-to-day stresses that they encounter. All members of fire and rescue teams use every piece of their training to save families and property from the damage and danger of smoke and flame, but “training” comes in many forms. If an individual has never been taught to observe the warning signs of behavioral health trouble in himself or his teammates, it’s hard to know how to take action.

Helping promote a culture of safety concerns everyone – firefighters, emergency personnel, and the public they serve. National Fire Safety Month exists to improve everyone’s understanding of the importance of preventing disasters before they occur. Three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms – and smoke detectors don’t last forever. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)requires smoke alarms to be replaced at 10 year intervals, but because the public is generally unaware, many homes have smoke detectors past their expiration date. More families today are purchasing smart home fire systems, which typically off some form of remote monitoring – either continuous or on-demand – to help tip off residents if a fire starts at any time. But smart alarms and technology cannot do it all.

As National Fire Safety Month continues throughout October, it’s an opportune time to shed light on the crucial importance of a department’s safety climate and improve everyone’s relationship to preventative safety measures.

 

Beth K is a freelance health and family blogger based in the Midwest. After she graduated from DePaul University with a Communications degree in 2011, Beth moved to South Korea to teach English and study traditional holistic health and yoga practices. Today she lives in Chicago with her rabbit, Anthony Hopkins.

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Let’s Talk

People Chatting. Vector illustration of a communication concept, relating to feedback, reviews and discussion.

September 28, 2016 –  Guest Writer: Nick Baskerville –

One day, I’m riding in the back of the fire engine, because, when you are in the fire department, that’s what you do. Then a guy looks at me and says “so, what are you good at?” “Nothing, really” “Come on, everybody’s good at something! That guy, was Marcello Trejo. He was good at plenty of things: Fitness. Compassion. Keeping people laughing. He was the kind of person that when he came to mind, I would wonder what kind of extraordinary impact he would have on the entire fire service. He was not the guy I would have thought would have taken his own life. TD Jakes talks in one of his sermons that some people can be going through turmoil and no one ever know it. Are you one of those folks with turmoil hidden behind a smile? Would you know what to do if someone you knew was that person?

I would love to time travel to a point in time to keep Marcello here. But I can’t. Instead, I figure I’d reach out to you. When I take a flight, the stewardess has in their safety briefing that when we lose cabin pressure, first put your mask, then help the person next to you. In the military and in public safety, we rarely do that. Instead, we fail to see how taking care of ourselves, can be the best things we can do to help others.

For the month of Sep, I’ve decided that every day, I’ll do 22 pushups for the military suicides that happen every day. Then another 13 Burpees to represent initiative 13, the Behavioral Health Initiative from the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. I started to video the workouts, but then I thought “I’m no star athlete, what’s the point in that?” Instead, day morning, I’m going post something I learn about mental health or suicide. A story. A fact. Info about an organization. Sometimes it will be a video, sometimes just an encouraging word.

The challenge I have for you, not to do push ups. Go learn something new about mental health or suicide, and post on my blog at www.helpasks4u.wordpress.com  Whether the help is for you personally, Or if the help is for someone you care about, remember this:

  • “Ask for Help, because help always asks for you.” Marcello Trejo

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Michael

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September 28, 2016  Message from a brother, Joseph Bonanno.

One of Michael’s proudest moments is when he became a member of the New York City Fire Department. He enjoyed a great career and also thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie within it’s ranks. Unfortunately, a back injury ended his career early, maybe too early, one of the issues he struggled with after leaving the fire service. The pictures above tell only a portion of what he was as a person. I am Joseph Bonanno, Michael’s brother and also a veteran of the FDNY.

The picture above is of Michael (in the light blue shirt) and I, at a train station with our gear on September 12, 2001 on our way to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Even dealing with a disabling back injury, he insisted on responding and we both worked side by side, tirelessly in search of survivors or helping other firefighters. His company, Ladder 7, lost 5 members that day and it was his shift that was working that morning. We all lost so much that terrible morning as the world both grieved and applauded the FDNY.

Michael married, adopted a daughter and lived in several places, Morro Bay, CA, Asheville, NC, Destin, FL and eventually settled in Cleveland, OH.

Our family suffered another terrible loss early in our lives. Our dear mother, Audrey Bonanno was severely burned in a fire in our home in 1981 and succumbed to the injuries a week later. Michael, like all of us, took it hard, as well as 9/11 and struggled with alcohol, family issues, back pain and depression. He worked very hard to fight these demons and assisted so many others through difficult times. He volunteered much at his local church, was a talent in the kitchen cooking for the homeless, learned all the various home improvement skills and helped so many with this, sponsoring AA meetings and was always there if and when needed.

He was a kind soul and loved by many. Sadly, on July 31, 2012, he took his life in a terrible way, which shocked and saddened all who knew him. It was something that most firefighters cannot fathom happening, yet it happens more often than I ever knew and sadly, now know personally. The grief and confusion that happens the wake of suicide is something no one should ever have to endure, especially those who sacrifice so much for so many. For those that read this and have considered suicide as an option, PLEASE GO SOMEWHERE FOR HELP. I can tell you first hand, you are not better off and for sure, not the ones you leave behind. For the survivors of suicide, I also wish that you seek help and support and pray for your healing.

Joseph Bonanno

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Tim

 

September 26, tk2016  From a mom, Jean Willis

When Tim was 4 years old and living in the city of Rochester, NY, the city fire department sent a truck down our street to promote smoke alarms. The firefighters let little Timmy climb up into the truck and wear their helmet. From that day on, Tim wanted to be a firefighter. He never wavered in his goal. Tim started out as an Explorer on the Brighton, NY fire department. From there he became a volunteer and finally a paid firefighter in 1995. This was the culmination of a 20 year dream.

Tim loved being a fireman and helping others. While he struggled in high school with the relevance of the courses, once he started firefighter training, he had no problem with the course work. A co-worker said of Tim, that he was a great PR person for the fire department, because when a town resident brought their family to the fire department, Tim would be the first one up to show them around. He was wonderful with both parents and the kids.

He also gave to his community. He volunteered for Brighton Ambulance, was an Explorer leader for several years. He was an avid bicyclist, riding for many charities: The Tour de Cure, heart, and cancer. Tim was the first person to help all his family and friends with moving, hauling, babysitting; anything that was needed. He was a huge supporter of his godchild in all her endeavors. He was a wonderful son and a very protective older brother. He enjoyed kayaking, jet skiing and cross-country skiing. He loved photography and was at any fire scene where there was a possibility of good pictures. Some of his pictures were featured in a national fire magazine.

From late teen years on, Tim fought the battle of depression. At times it put him into a very dark space. Other times he could cover and hide his depression from everyone. It did not affect his ability to do his job as a firefighter. Tim fought long and hard for many years. He was a victim of both the insidious depression and over prescribing of depression medications. In the end, Tim just couldn’t fight any longer and took his own life. At his eulogy a co-worker (a cancer survivor) said “…depression is a disease like cancer. For some, the medicines work, for others they don’t.” Unfortunately the medicines were a part of Tim’s demise. Tim is missed everyday by his family and friends.

Jean Willis

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Todd

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September 24, 2016 – Viewpoint of a dad, Al Diercks.

2016 has been an unpleasant milestone. It’s been five years since we lost our son Todd to suicide and I’m still mad.

This emotion is not within the context of the “anger” that’s academically included as “one of the 5 normal stages of grief”.  Certainly, all our family members hit various  “denial, “acceptance” and “depression” levels but I can say that I never sensed any anger toward his suicide – only an overriding feeling of compassion and deep remorse.

With the exception of incidents driven by drug use, it has always been hard for me to understand how any individual could lose all hope and see no alternative to suicide.  Obviously, it was this level of naiveté that kept this outcome hidden from our view – even as Todd’s joy in life continued to spiral in a cruel string of events that he called “his black cloud.”

This included relationship issues and an off-duty spinal injury that ended his career as a firefighter and shattered his sense of self-worth.  A subsequent marriage, stillborn child, financial struggles, divorce, self-medication and job loss combined to take him down.

While many seem to point the finger at those who’ve chosen to take their lives  — boldly and blindly accusing them of having made a “cowardly” decision —  I focus more heavily on the fact that suicide is preventable!   As part of this conviction, I’ll always carry the natural “woulda, coulda, shoulda” assessments.  At least I’ve shed the self-appointed title of “bad Dad.”

So during the years of keeping myself, at least loosely tied to my own whipping post, I’ve learned a lot about the other players and processes that can help keep the progressive  “mental / behavioral health issues . . .  to mental illness . . . to depression  . . . to suicide” issue under a greater level of control.

Through my own non-professional observation, I’ve noted needs in the following areas:

  • At the earliest stages, universities, fire schools and departments need to let candidates know (and SEE) the type of situations they WILL be exposed to.
  • The issue of “mental fitness for duty” should be considered as important as physical health for firefighters and EMT’s.  Funding should be resourced and allocated for ongoing training and screening in this area.  This should contribute to more open, non-threatening discussion and mutual support throughout departments.
  • Chiefs and Training Officers should be tested toassess their own levels of conviction and stigma that may affect or limit actions in their mental health training programs
    • Comparative financial/legal impact studies should be calculated to project personnel costs / lost time, training, insurance/treatment, possible damage/legal implications.   (with AND without periodic mental health training).  Assuming this would be done at Fire Protection District, IAFF, Municipal, Local and State government levels
  • Contracted (EAP) Employee Assistance Program providers must be selected from firms that have a minimum level of Fire/EMS/Trauma-specific training (hrs. TBD) to be considered in contract evaluations.
  • Pharmacists, primary care physicians and LCSW’s who support first responders need to have more effective lines of communications to prevent interactions and misuse.

These are only recommendations but we put it out there as a wish list.  Whatever your connection to fire/EMS, we hope you can help make some of these wishes happen by guidance, participation or contributions — any amount will be appreciated !

Sincerely,

Al Diercks & Family

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FBHA IN OVIEDO, SPAIN

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September 19, 2016  Guest writer and FBHA Instructor: Dr. Derrick L. Edwards LPC-MHSP

Wow! The 16th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicide Behavior in Oviedo, Spain was such an amazing experience! Researchers and clinicians from all over the world met to discuss, share, and collaborate with one another in an effort to reduce the incidence of suicide. The opening ceremony began with a realization that every 40 seconds a life is lost due to suicide. The ripple effect from each of these events led to an acknowledgement that nearly all of us have lost someone to this terrible tragedy. As both a clinician and researcher I was struck with this thought for perhaps the first time; and suddenly the reason people avoid the topic of suicide became so intensely clear… We avoid talking about suicide because we have been affected by it in some way. Perhaps, even while reading this blog, you are reminded of a friend or family member you have lost. Let’s face it, we don’t enjoy being reminded of these tragic events. However, I believe that we have an obligation, to the ones we have yet to lose, to understand suicide more clearly so that we can develop better, lifesaving, interventions. We can better honor the ones we have lost by openly discussing their lives, and the factors leading to their deaths. I wanted to share three quick thoughts I have gained from my time in Oviedo.

  1. Buy time

Suicide is not a spontaneous decision, and is typically the result of meticulous planning. However, the act of suicide happens in a single moment. One of the most effective things you can do to help someone who is contemplating suicide is to ask for more time to get them some help. The vast majority of hospitalized suicidal patients report they are glad they did not complete their plan.

  1. Be present

Individuals who attempt to end their own lives often feel as if they are not understood. In other words, they feel lost in the crowd. By being present in the life of others, you are telling them that they matter. We can all appreciate the feelings we have when we are noticed by others. Have you let the people around you know that you see them? You may save their life!

  1. Say something

Too often we have concerns about others and never make our concerns known. If you suspect that someone is considering ending their life… ASK! Asking if someone is suicidal does not “put the idea in their head”, nor does it make your relationship forever awkward. If anything, you are communicating that you care about them and are concerned for their well-being. This is increasingly true for young people, who often report feeling worried about “telling” on their friends. Parents and educators have an especially important role in teaching children how to respond to a suicidal friend.
As we take part in suicide awareness month, it is my hope that we can both honor the lost while better preparing for the future. If you are someone who is considering suicide, I beg you to reach out for help. You are not lost, and I want you know that we see you. I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of people while in Spain who are working diligently to help YOU! Give us a chance to make a difference!

 

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Kenny

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September 15, 2016  A letter from a sister, Amanda Azbell

Today, September 13th, is my third birthday with no birthday card.  No phone call with a teasing, humorous Happy Birthday song, no Facebook post with an embarrassing picture from when I was little, nothing.

This is what my birthday will look like for the rest of my life, because I lost my brother to suicide.

Now, I will get an abundance of phone calls, texts, cards, and Facebook Happy Birthday messages that are graciously appreciated.  But the one I don’t get, leaves quite an impact.

Life is too short to begin with, please don’t make it any shorter by making the choice to end it.  You might not have thought of this, so let me say it to you now.  Your sister, your brother, your father, and your mother will miss the birthday cards you won’t send.  They will miss the phone calls you don’t make.  They will miss the hugs you’re not around to give.  YOU WILL BE MISSED!  Oh, and don’t forget your grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, friends… This list goes on and on.  Although it’s been over 2 years I still find myself wanting to tell my brother about something that happened, and having a wave of sadness come over me when reality hits me that I can’t.  When you choose to leave this world, you are creating a mountain sized hole in the hearts of those who loved you.  Do you realize the pain it would cause?  Do you realize the effect it will have on your loved ones?

Losing my brother to suicide has been the absolute hardest thing my family has ever gone through.  But you know what?  We are better people for having gone through it.  Although I wish I had never experienced this tragedy, I am grateful for how it has impacted my life, and the lives of my family and our friends.  I don’t take my family and friends for granted, that’s for sure.

When is the last time you told your sibling you loved them?  When is the last time you hugged them?  Can you remember?  I can’t.  My brother and I fought like cats and dogs growing up, and it only got somewhat better as we entered our 20’s.  When’s the last time you yelled at, hit, or said something unkind to your sibling?  I was with my brother for most of the day before he decided to end his life.  No punches were thrown – that day – and no harsh words were shouted, but that doesn’t mean nice words were exchanged.  Does it seem silly to you now, to get upset over something so small and trivial?  I hope it does.  As a sister who no longer gets to hug her brother, or tell him she loves him, it drives me nuts to see siblings fighting with one another.  Your siblings are the only friends you have that are with you your entire life!  Why would you waste that?  Be kind to one another.  Would my having been kinder to my brother maybe saved his life?  Who knows?  But at least then, the thought wouldn’t have crossed my mind.  Is it something you really want to live with on your heart?

If you are fighting with a family member, please make up.  Life is too short.  Do you really want your last words they hear from you to be unkind?

If you are going through a hard time and feel like giving up, please read through this one more time.  If you took a minute to think of all the ones you would leave behind, whose hearts would ache for you, wouldn’t that make a difference?  I hope it would.  I hope you realize how important you are, and how loved you are.  Do you really want your sister to be crying over the birthday card she didn’t get from you?

~ Still Saddened Sister ~

Amanda Azbell

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Peter

me
September 12, 2016 – My Story by Peter Ruggeri
In November of 2014 my demons, both personal and professional, almost became too
much. I had a plan and what I thought was a way out of it all. Fortunately my “plan” didn’t come to fruition. I instead entered a treatment  program at a hospital in Vermont. While I was there I kept a journal and hope you will share the following short passage I wrote on one of my last days in treatment. There is hope, healing and peace to be found
   …………I’ve come to realize a lot of things here, I have a lot of work left to do, but I’ve realized that I can’t ever run from this. I’ve realized  the thoughts that were in my head in recent weeks don’t have to come to fruition. I’ve seen that the feelings don’t have to rule my existence. I’ve learned that there is no despair deeper than what we create for ourselves. The past is simply the past and no amount or type of emotion can change that. We have to accept it and move forward making a better future for ourselves. I realized that there is a way to heal and a way to find peace, self compassion and self love. It takes time and it takes work. I’m glad I did this on my own terms, it had a high price in many ways, but the difference in how I feel was worth the cost. I won’t miss the 13 hour days or the 6:00 AM wake up/work out but I will in a sense always miss this place and this time in my life.

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