The stresses faced by first responders have always been a cause for concern.  In today’s environment, with increasing demands, decreased staffing, and overwhelming calls for service, wellness has become a focus of public safety leaders.  Statistics have shown that firefighter suicide rates exceed line-of-duty (LODD) deaths.  While there is mandatory reporting of career firefighter LODDs, there is underreporting of volunteer fire service, EMS and 911 telecommunicator deaths.

The Public Employer Risk Management Association (PERMA) and New York State Association of Fire Chiefs have developed a 3-episode audio podcast series to assist firefighters, EMS, and 911 telecommunicators.

Fire Chief and NYSAFC chief executive officer Bruce Heberer said, “We have finally turned a corner.  When I came on the job in the 1980’s, you didn’t talk about your stress.  That was wrong.  We need to support our people, get them to talk about the things that bother them.  These podcasts help us to better understand the problem of stress and suicide, and to encourage discussion without judgment.”

PERMA public safety risk management specialist Pete Frisoni said, “The number of first responder suicides is very alarming and we need to do whatever we can to help.  PERMA is glad to support our fire, EMS and 911 professionals with this podcast series to increase awareness, remove the stigma of seeking help, and provide vital resources.”

The series confronts the problem of stress and suicide among first responders with compelling interviews with professionals who have personally witnessed the trauma and stress of being on the front lines.  At the conclusion of each episode, several resources are provided with contact numbers for counseling services, hotlines, and other services.  These resources can be found also here on a clickable poster for immediate access.

Check out these episodes:

101: The Stresses of the Front Lines – Fire, EMS and 911

A discussion about stress and suicide for first responders.  What do we know about the scope of the problem?  Front line workers describe the incidents that can cause stress.

Featuring:  Bruce Heberer (Johnstown Fire Chief/NYSAFC CEO), Jeff Dill (former Illinois Battalion Chief and current licensed professional counselor at Firefighter Behavior Health Alliance), Mike Healy (retired New York Fire Chief and former clinical director of the NYC Transit Authority Behavioral Health Program), Shawn Healy (FDNY EMT), and Dorine Hanevy (Oswego County 911 Sr. Public Safety Telecommunicator)

102: The Stress Bucket

Assistant Fire Chief Jared Meeker talks about his personal experiences with stress, including one incident that tipped his “stress bucket.”  He describes how stress can accumulate, the signs and symptoms of a person in distress, and what leadership can do to help their crews.

Featuring:  Jared Meeker (Lakeshore Fire District Assistant Fire Chief)

103: Providing Support – Professionals, Peers, Families

When a first responder is looking for help, they may prefer someone who understands the world of emergency service.  We discuss peer and family support with fire chiefs who understand the culture of being a first responder.  Former Battalion Chief Jeff Dill offers meaningful insight about support from colleagues and family members, urging direct dialogue by “challenging with compassion” to encourage our colleagues to talk about their concerns.

Featuring:  Jared Meeker, Mike Healy, Shawn Healy, and Jeff Dill