On November 18, local firefighters, senior officers, chaplains and counselors were amongst the guests attending Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance’s (FBHA) first “Saving Those Who Save Others” workshop sponsored by Harper College Department of Fire Science Technology in Palatine, a northwest suburb of Chicago. The four-hour interactive workshop brings to the surface the startling facts and statistics about the rising number of firefighter suicides that are rapidly increasing within all ranks of the fire service, and not just in the Chicago land area, but across the entire U.S.
Many of those attending the suicide prevention workshop received an eye opening experience that day. Most were not aware that firefighter suicides were happening so frequently, and though many fire departments have well qualified Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) as a mental health resource, firefighters are often reluctant to use them.
“A lot of guys want to talk to someone, but they’re frustrated because most people don’t know anything about ourprofession” according to FBHA Founder, Battalion Chief Jeff Dill. “So they don’t talk to anyone,” he goes on to add.
At the conclusion of the workshop, some that had experienced a suicide within their department shared that the warning signs perhaps were there, but the behavioral health training was not. Dill has set out to change that and remove the stigma within the fire service that asking for help is a weakness.
Throughout the workshop that explains the history, methods, myths and facts about suicide, Dill challenges his guests to open dialogue through actual role-playing scenarios. Knowing what signs and symptoms to look for, as well as being aware of what confidential mental health resources are available and easily accessible to a department is key to helping those that may turn to suicide to ease their pain before it is too late.Philadelphia Local 22 IAFF President Bill Gault doesn’t need another tragic reminder that there is an immediate need for behavioral health training specifically tailored for the fire service. As the Philadelphia Fire Department experienced two firefighter suicides this year, Gault reached out to FBHA’s Jeff Dill for his help and expertise on suicide prevention training for the Philadelphia Fire Department. Philadelphia Local 22 will be sponsoring four”Saving Those Who Save Others” workshops presented by Dill during the week of December 12–16, 2011.
As FBHA Founder Battalion Chief Jeff Dill continues to charge on across the U.S. training fire departments on how to take an active role in making sure their firefighters know what mental health resources are available to them, he will also be sharing his knowledge and professional insight speaking to a global audience of fire service leadership at the 2012 Fire Rescue International show (Denver, CO) in August 2012.For more information, visit www.ffbha.org or call (847) 485-8953.
Jeff Dill is presently a Battalion Chief at Palatine Rural Fire Protection District in Inverness, Illinois and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois. Jeff knows firsthand how danger, pride and other accolades go hand-in-hand when describingfirefighters, but too often mental health is overlooked. He is dedicated to making a significant difference in reducing thenumbers of firefighters who are turning to suicide to ease their pain.