Three Groups Release Statement on Fire Service Suicides

The International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, and National Fallen Firefighters Foundation urge firefighters and their loved ones to familiarize themselves with tools and resources that can help.

A Feb. 3 joint statement issued by three fire organizations calls suicides "a growing concern in the fire and emergency service and an important behavioral health topic that many of us have been working on for more than a year."

The statement was posted on all three organizations' websites, and NFFF appended some additional documents along with the statement, including a 16-page "Issues of Depression and Suicide in the Fire Service" meeting report based on a July 11-12, 2011, summit meeting in Baltimore that the foundation convened.

The participants discussed the available data and best strategies for prevention and intervention. Two experts -– Dr. Richard Gist of the Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department and the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; and Vickie Taylor, behavioral health consultant to the foundation -- were facilitators for the meeting, and several expert psychologists participated.

According to the report, a key point discussed throughout the conference was the lack of data about suicide rates among fire service personnel. Death certificates frequently don't reflect data about the decedent's occupation, and it is especially hard to establish trends for volunteer members, who comprise roughly 70 percent of the U.S. fire service, the report states.

"Firearms are the leading instrument of suicide in the United States, especially among white males, and by far the leading instrument in known fire service suicides," it states, after noting that restricting access to lethal means has proven effective in preventing suicide.

The groups' statement urges anyone who feels at risk or knows someone who may be at risk to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or seek emergency medical assistance.

The Allbaugh International Group, LLC (Washington, D.C.) took note of the statement. An emergency, security, disaster and anti-terrorism planning, management, and training group, it is headed by former FEMA director Joe M. Allbaugh, who coordinated the federal government's response after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the downing of the fourth jetliner in Shanksville, Pa.

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