The 2014 year began with an auspicious start, as just three days into the new year, I had my gall bladder removed. Yet, with the grace of God I was on a plane to Sault Ste. Marie, MI four days later, for the first of our many workshops and speaking engagements for 2014.
FBHA hit the road, or I should say air, and flew 52,000 miles in covering the thirty-three workshops and conferences. We visited thirteen states, some multiple times, and we even went to the great State of Alaska. FBHA also went to Alberta, Canada to speak to our Canadian brothers and sisters. Our workshops were presented to over thirteen hundred firefighters and EMS personnel. It was a great honor to meet people from all over North America, who invited us into their lives, and made us feel like family.
The cause for all this travel is to reduce and hopefully eliminate FF/EMT suicides. In 2014, there were 88 reported and validated suicides to FBHA. Our overall number is 566 lost brothers and sisters that have been validated from 1880 – 2014. The sad fact here is we believe only 25% of the 30,000+ fire departments and an unknown amount of EMS organizations even know of FBHA to report these tragic events. We hope to visit more states, departments and FF/EMT’s in 2015 to spread the word about suicide prevention.
FBHA received a Fire Prevention & Safety grant this year through FEMA/AFG. It has allowed us to offer 25 free workshops to fire departments all across America in 2014 and 2015. FBHA plans to re-apply for another grant when the application period opens.
On a personal note I would like to thank all of my brothers and sisters who contacted us looking for help. Your trust and faith in our abilities has touched my heart. You were commended for reaching out and we took that seriously by providing counselors and chaplains in your area to meet who understood our culture. Your e-mails about your success stories have truly affected me beyond words.
FBHA would like to thank everyone who donated to our cause. Your kindness is deeply appreciated, plus your faith in our organization has carried us to a certain point. During these difficult financial times FBHA realizes every non-for-profit organization is asking for support and we are no different. No salaries are drawn, except for payment made to instructors for presenting our workshops. We must charge for our workshop if we are to continue our efforts, and keep our organization above water. Several manufacturers were approach by FBHA for assistance but we were given wrong contact information, they would never return calls or stated they donate to another major firefighter foundation. We will continue to fight to find funding but the outlook for FBHA to continue past 2015 looks bleak. We will be working diligently to avoid this unfortunate set of circumstances.
FBHA has 40 workshops scheduled and working to schedule another ten requests that have come in to us. We are also excited to be instituting an Ambassador Program for next year. Dozens of requests from people across America, and a few from Canada, have expressed their interest in helping FBHA expand in 2015. Ambassadors will be assigned a territory to work for us as a part time position. We have scheduled the first annual Suicide Survivor Retreat: Those Left Behind, for May 2015. We have made the deposit on the location. Instructors have been selected and attendees have registered. We are hoping we can raise enough funds to make this happen.
In closing, I want to express my gratitude to all of those who support us. It has been three years of serving the fire service community by educating them about a very difficult subject. The friends we have made have been a tremendous benefit of this difficult work.
I also want to express my deepest condolences to the loved ones that have lost a family member to suicide, not only this year, but for all those in past years. No one can comfort the pain and loss they have felt, but please know there are so many people who are trying to make changes on behalf of your loved ones. Changes that I feel will be for the positive to improve the culture of both fire and EMS services.
Lastly, I want to thank my wife for volunteering hours upon hours to support this mission. It would have never been as successful as it has been without her.
Jeff Dill, Founder