Fire Service Traditions and History, Health & Safety

The Impact of Mental Health Stigma in the Fire Service

Issue 12 and Volume 170.

By Christopher L. McKenna   Few would dispute that being a firefighter or an emergency medical technician (EMT) is a dangerous and a stressful occupation. Despite the risks, 1.13 million men and women served in the fire service in 2014, of which nearly 69 percent served on a voluntary basis.1 Moreover, these individuals responded to approximately 31.6 million calls across the country in 2014, ranging from fires to requests for medical aid, hazardous materials, and false alarms.2 Undoubtedly, many of these situations result in exposure to traumatic or stressful situations. Not surprisingly, those in the fire service have higher rates of depression and suicide.3 This raises the question of whether these bold individuals are getting the help they need to combat the, at times, difficult encounters. For example, a recent study showed that 58 percent of almost 500 participants were more likely to report stigma-related barriers to care as members…

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