How officers can help a fire fighter in need
If you are a union or department officer, it is critical that you are aware of the signs that may indicate a member is experiencing a behavioural health problem or crisis. In a position of leadership or authority, it can be more difficult to detect how your members are doing on an individual or emotional level. Concerns about mental health stigma, promotions or rank may often prevent a fire fighter from speaking honestly with a supervisor. Therefore, as an officer, it’s important to pay attention to observable behavioural and physical changes in your members, including:
How to intervene
If you have a member showing the signs listed above, it is your responsibility as a company officer to intervene. The member may just need to talk or need a couple of days off to deal with a family matter. On the other hand, the member may be struggling with a serious mental health or substance abuse problem that needs professional intervention. You don’t know until you ask. Your relationship with the member may dictate how you choose to intervene. Some options include:
When is residential treatment needed?
Individuals typically seek residential treatment when issues have not been resolved at a lower level of outpatient care. In some cases, however, residential treatment is clinically indicated when there is no prior treatment history. When a member’s work, family, home or social life is severely impaired by symptoms or behaviour, residential treatment may be a good choice. Residential treatment can also provide an added layer of anonymity that is difficult to achieve at a local treatment facility.
If you think a member is suicidal: Do Not Wait
While symptoms of a behavioural health problem are not always obvious, suicide warning signs are clear behavioural, emotional or interpersonal cues that a member is at immediate risk of attempting suicide. These include:
If a member is displaying any of the signs above, he or she should be escorted to a licensed mental health provider, an emergency room or accompanied during a call to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Source: IAFF Recovery Centre