The fire service has experienced several depression and suicide victims over the past decades. There have been suicide clusters and depression patterns in large fire fighting departments worldwide. The patterns are similar in that in many of the reported cases; the victims showed signs of depression before they eventually attempted or committed suicide. However, cases of attempted suicide supersede those of reported deaths in the fire fighting service. The rising cases have ignited a tremendous increase in concerns for comprehending the incidences of death in firefighters. Concerns are also mounting to find out the factors that seem to be driving these servicemen to end their lives. Other concerns are about the available avenues or those that can be created to assist firefighters, their colleagues, and their whole department to prevent such incidences .
Furthermore, strategies have to be developed to equip their families in dealing with the rising suicidal tendencies, how they can help stop and deal with the regrettable losses. Strong leadership skills are needed to steer these departments from these losses. The good news is that servicemen are capable of learning from these lessons and live prosperous lives. In fact, effective treatment of depression exists and this gives hope to the vulnerable. Firefighters feel depressed and are pushed to attempt or commit suicide because of varying reasons. When the causes of depression are well tackled, then the battle shall have been won half way. Agencies in charge of management of the fire fighting services must begin to appreciate the unique experiences their staffs undergo. To understand the effective measures that can be instituted to reduce depression and suicide tendencies, there is a need to briefly look at the causes.
The ideation of suicide is much more prevalent that the suicide attempts that in turn is more common than death. Depression and suicide are preventable and the service leaders at the forefront of making real the prevention strategy. Those who think about suicide are more than those who commit it. However, thinking about death is a significant risk factor as these people go ahead and do it eventually. Many attempts are spontaneous and unplanned. Notably, the greatest period of risk for a suicide attempt is within the duration after the thoughts about death start to develop.
In the United States, fewer women than men die of suicide. The greatest cause of suicide in all the instances is depression. In most cases, the depressive signs were noted by either family or workmates but no sufficient action was taken. Many white men are at risk especially when they are starting their volunteer service. Also, the risk factor escalates for more old white men leaving the service at the age of 65 and above. The patterns can be reversed by effective leadership aimed at addressing these tragic occurrences. Most causes of suicide are depression, death by gunshots, hanging and suffocation. These are the methods employed by most men. Guns must thus be kept away from any staff with noticeable suicidal thoughts. The firefighters are normally the first people on the scene of a fire tragedy. Be it in residential houses, business premises or road carnage, the images, and the victims are usually in distressing states .
In many cases, they encounter death and psychological injuries that go unattended to. These occurrences trigger trauma and the firefighters see the worthlessness of life. Some develop depression that eventually culminates in suicide. Those who undergo mental health disorders such as depression, nervousness, and abuse of substances are at higher risks of having thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts and death by suicide. Another cause is weak belongingness that happens when an individual’s fundamental need to belong is not met or frustrated. They believe no one cares about them, including their family, friends or colleagues. Then there is the perceived burdensomeness. It happens when a person sees himself as a burden to others and so by killing him or herself he would be relieving them of this supposed responsibility. The last trigger of suicide is the capability to involve oneself in behaviors that are suicidal.
There are ways of reliable means of preventing suicide. Leaders in the fire service should be aware of the caution signs for suicide. The Suicidology Association of America came up with a mnemonic IS PATH WARM that can be used to assist people remember the suicide warning signs. ‘I’ refers to ideation of death or suicide. It is a situation where a person thinks about killing him or herself or is wishing for death. In this regard, the management must organize frequent trainings and workshops that are aimed at nipping this particular tendency in the bud. ‘S’ is for substance abuse that is a potential risk factor for behaviors that are inclined towards suicide. When it comes to drug abuse, it should be in the mandate of the leaders and colleague to create an organizational culture where counseling is emphasized.
‘P’ is for the purposelessness. A person can feel that they have no purpose in life. The feeling can arise from home or the workplace. Therefore, fire service leaders should make their staff have a sense of importance as this might reduce suicide cases. ‘A’ is for anxiety or agitation. It is an emotion that prods a person to feel like they are moving out of their skin. It is noticeable in people who are at a risk of committing suicide. ‘T’ is for feeling trapped. An individual experiences intense hopelessness and is at a high danger of having suicidal thoughts. ‘W’ refers to withdrawal. The withdrawal is always from family, co-workers and close friends. Such a sign should be a caution for such a person to be carefully monitored. The management can set up a support system or a working culture where workers closely interact. Such a step will help alleviate suicidal tendencies in the long run.
‘A’ stands for hunger and rage that are also significant triggers of suicide. In a tightly knit organization, these changes in people are readily noticeable. What the leaders in the fire service ought to do is inspire a communal culture where everyone is his or her brother’s keeper. ‘R’ stands for reckless behavior and critical changes in the moods. The management should institute timely and adequate training for these workers considering that they perform their jobs in traumatic situations. Their families should also be always involved in the home front. The families need to be aware of the distressing jobs their members work. In dealing with losses of death, both the families and co-workers should be assisted in the healing and recovery process.
There exist many forms of treatment and care for firefighters with depression. Hopelessness has been registered to be the most prevalent precursor for suicide. Suicide is always a way out of the pain of depression. However, depression is treatable. The effectiveness of these treatment strategies is dependent on a number of factors. These factors have to be well thought-out before treatment is commenced as they are unique to every person. There are many types of depression medicines that can be prescribed to a person who is depressed. These include antidepressants that can significantly help in managing the disease. However, these are less effectual as they bring side effects that can affect someone’s daily job. A person must regularly and carefully work with a doctor in choosing the right medicine.
Psychotherapy is another form of treatment. It involves open talking that is aimed at lifting the moods of a person. It also assists the affected individual in improving his or her coping skills. When someone is talked to, the chances for suicide ideation, feelings of purposelessness and rage may be reduced. However, this is only effective for mild cases. For acute cases, there is the use of electric shock treatment. It involves Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT and is used for severe depression cases. It is also used when the medicines fail to respond. Interpersonal therapy is also applicable and fits the company situation where colleagues talk to each other in group sessions. Also, there is psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. These forms of treatment can be applied. However, they will be effective if the leadership of fire services deliberately address the causes of suicide.
Depression leads to death among the officers who work in the fire service. Suicide is a tragic form of death in most cases as it prevention was possible. One of the initial steps that the fire service managers need to take a firefighter immediately for stress checks after a traumatic experience. Most men, who form the majority of employees in this field rarely, speak out about their experiences and deepest pains and fears. The compulsory testing will take note of any psychological anomaly in an individual that may develop from stress and depression. On the lighter side, it is possible for the leadership of the firefighting departments to eliminate these regrettable losses. Suicide is preventable while depression is treatable.
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. (2011). Issues of Depression and Suicide in the Fire Service. Baltimore: National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
Richard Gist, V. T. (2011). Depression and Suicide White Paper. Kansas: University of Missouri.
WebMD. (2013, July 23). Depression Health Centre. Retrieved December 3, 2014, from WebMD.com: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-treatment-care