Every day a firefighter clocks into work, they are putting their lives at risk. What a lot of people don’t realize, is even when their shift is over, the risk continues.
This year alone, more than 100 firefighters in the United States have taken their own lives while dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now the problem seems to be what happens to them after the ashes have settled.
“When a new person comes through the door, we don’t necessarily know how they are going to react to the things they see,” says Chief Pat Parker of Michigan’s Grand Traverse Metro Fire Station.
This is a nationwide problem, but hits close to home for Fire Chief Rusty Headley of the Coldsprings-Excelsior Fire Station in Kalkaska.
“About eight years ago, one of our members at this department actually committed suicide and it affected some of the guys around here pretty hard for a while,” said Headley.
On Saturday, Headley shared a Facebook post from David Dangerfield, a fire chief in Florida.
“The stuff we see and deal with on a daily basis, both fire and EMS calls from medical to accidents to traumas, it adds up after a while and it just keeps piling on, and you just need someone to talk to every once and a while just to get it out and be able to move on.”
Right after making the post, Dangerfield took his own life.
Headley and Parker agree that simply talking to someone can make a huge difference.
“We need to have each other’s backs,” said Parker. “We need to look at people and say, ‘Hey, how are you today?’ And, ‘It’s OK to let us know if you’re having a bad day.’ Or ‘let us know that it was a really rough call we were on and let’s talk about it.'”
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