Experts said firefighters often pay a mental and emotional price. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse and suicide are common problems among firefighters, reports USA Today.
A 2014 report from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation found that a fire department is three times more likely to experience a suicide in a given year than a line-of-duty death.
“What they’re dealing with is not what the average person who works a 9-to-5 office job is going to see,” said Chief Philip Stittleburg, chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council. “We’re finally coming to realize that these sorts of incidents take a toll on you.”
For volunteer fire departments, which are often found in small towns and rural areas, there’s a heightened chance that someone on the department will know the victim of a fire or accident, Stittleburg said.
“That adds a whole additional stress level to the operation,” he said.
While career firefighters generally work regularly scheduled hours, volunteers can get called anytime of the day or night. They have to juggle those duties with family and work obligations, Stittleburg said.
“It does take a toll on the family when you’re opening the Christmas presents and suddenly, off you go to a call,” he said.
Firefighters often don’t talk about the emotions of their job because they don’t want to show any weakness to their colleagues, the community or themselves, said Jeff Dill, founder of the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.
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