Firefighters are being pushed harder than ever, forced to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic and historic wildfires. The pandemic has introduced a new anxiety to an already stressful job. This stress can overwhelm even the strongest among us – with one of our own taking their life.
The facts speak for themselves:
Firefighting is second only to combat soldiers in terms of occupational stress
Over the past five years, more firefighters have taken their own lives than died in traumatic line-of-duty deaths
Nearly one in three firefighters has considered suicide.
This May, the California fire service is once again mobilizing firefighters to participate in a Behavioral Health Suicide Awareness Safety Stand Down. Now in its third year, the Safety Stand Down seeks to engage departments and firefighters directly through training on a health and safety issue that could, literally, be a matter of life and death.
During the stand down week, or some other time in May, stations are encouraged to cancel other drills and convene kitchen table sessions with suicide awareness and behavioral health as the focus. The use of the “safety stand down” procedure helps to reinforce suicide awareness as a component of health and safety training.
The California Fire Service Behavioral Health Task Force, which coordinates the stand down, will provide fire stations and local unions the tools they need to help get the conversation started. Material, including wallet cards, posters and other material, will be available along with links to resources.
The Stand Down week is May 17-21, but departments and stations have the flexibility to schedule it any time during May, which is also Mental Health Awareness Month.
CPF and CalJAC are co-sponsors of the Behavioral Health Task Force, along with CalOES and California Fire Chiefs Association.
Find tools, resources and stories to help protect firefighter mental wellness.