Firefighters not only face physical challenges as part of their public safety responsibilities but also mental stressors without much notice from those around them, Tom Jenkins, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, emphasized during a training forum yesterday.
Around 50 representatives gathered for the 6th Annual Western Pacific Islands Association of Fire Chiefs (WPIAFC) Training Forum at the Lotte Hotel.
According to Jenkins, firefighters are at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide as part of their job. He said the numbers of firefighters suffering from PTSD could go as high as 22 percent.
For depression, the numbers also show an alarming trend. “In our business, between 12 to 27 percent of firefighters distribute in what they call a range of concern. I suppose this is a psychological way of saying, ‘Pay attention to them,'” Jenkins said.
“A recent survey report shows that nearly half of firefighters report having considered suicide throughout their career,” Jenkins said.
A July 2017 Yellow Ribbon Report by the International Fire Chiefs Association indicated that in the fire service, suicide rates are higher. According to the report, a study of 1,027 current and retired firefighters showed ideation, planning, and attempt rates at 46.8 percent, 19.2 percent, and 15.5 percent, respectively.
“If not properly identified, if not properly treated, that can segue into very dangerous paths. Certainly, suicide is one of those options,” Jenkins said.
“Again, in our jobs, we have to see firefighters as people that see the worst in humanity and report to duty the next day all the same. That is not necessarily correct. At some point, it becomes a façade,” he added.
According to Jenkins, the fire department must implement action steps to assist their firefighters in dealing with these stressors. The recommendations include implementing department wellness programs and providing education and resources for behavioral health.
Joey San Nicolas, 2017 WPIAFC president, said over 50 fire service leaders, chief officers from the different fire services around the Pacific region, attended the training forum.
“Basically, we are here to share ideas, common solutions and successes. The focus this year is all about health and wellness — how to maintain and adjust and modify what we do with the new challenges of today,” San Nicolas said.
Dealing with work-related hazards is not new to the fire department, according to San Nicolas.
“We have to take those extra steps and enforce safety using respiratory protection, personal protective equipment, so forth because that is what we do. Cancer rates alone on Guam, period, alone is high enough. Then you add a hazardous job to it,” he said.
Post-conference, he intends to have a more focused effort toward health and wellness.
“I think we did a pretty good job here on Guam,” San Nicolas said. “We have a high percentage of firefighters who are very fit, very capable, and do take wellness and health seriously.”
WPIAFC membership includes Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the United States.
Source: Google News : https://www.postguam.com/news/local/forum-focuses-on-firefighters-health/article_1ef28ee8-b3e4-11e7-a545-97bbf2c61c7f.html