Behavioral health issues are complex, multifaceted, and difficult to properly contextually appreciate by the untrained. To foster a better understanding of the extent of the problem within the fire and EMS services, one has to begin with the known data elements.
Unfortunately, while research exists into the effects of PTSD and other behavioral health conditions on the military and law enforcement, robust clinical research on firefighters has only just begun in earnest within the last few years.
In 2016, the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance tracked, investigated, and substantiated 103 firefighter and 37 EMT suicides, for a total of 140 suicides.
The fact that more firefighters and EMTs kill themselves each year than are killed in the line of duty points to a greater problem that often isn’t broadly discussed.
Such incidents are likely to be kept in-house versus disseminated and studied for causes that potentially could have been disrupted or, at the very least, learned from to prevent more suicides from occurring.
The #6 spot on the CDC's list of occupational suicide occurrence is firefighting.
A study by the Congressionally chartered National Fallen Firefighters Foundation found that firefighters are THREE TIMES more likely to commit suicide than be killed in a line of duty death.
90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness.
The trending of the numbers is clearly apparent with regard to occurrence, incidence, and correlation to both the fire and EMS services.
(NFPA 1500: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the Fire Industry, 2019)
First Responders face some of the most horrific and graphic experiences that no one should endure without help.