How do Firefighters Cope With Trauma?

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - Firefighters live and work on the front lines of dangerous and tragic situations everyday. The Salt Lake City Fire Department has a support program that allows firefighters to talk to their peers about the traumatic events they encounter on a frequent basis.
 
"We see people at their worst," said Matt Hovernale, Community Health Captain, Salt Lake City Fire Department. "We came together and realized that there was a need for peer-to-peer support after a suicide of one of our members."
 
The peer support program has been in place for four years now and, according to Hovernale, "it provides confidential 24-hour confidential support for firefighters who are in crisis. It can be anything from marital problems, substance abuse, or related to PTSD {Post Traumatic Stress Disorder}.
 
The 'Peer Support Team' is made up of 13 members that know first-hand what it's like for these firefighters who respond to severe events.
 
"Reach out. There's people there that want to help. There's people there that care. There's people that understand what you've been through that have been through those things themselves," said Michael Fox, Division Chief Over Medical Services, Salt Lake City Fire Department.
 
"Those peers are all trained in active listening, in crisis intervention, in diffusings and debriefings, and they're also trained in how to get someone to the proper help if they need help."
 
Hovernale told Good4Utah's Brittany Johnson that "firefighters are more likely to hurt themselves and have suicidal thoughts because of what they're exposed to on a daily basis." ... "Trauma and car accidents is an obvious one. People that have lost their homes due to fire or some sort of natural disaster, and this takes a toll on us."
 
"We view other firefighters as our brothers and sisters so if we lose one of them it's like losing a member of your family."
 
"Firefighters love to give help but we are so bad at taking help."
 
Some of the warning signs firefighters need to watch for in their fellow peers are "sleeplessness, not being able to get to sleep, not having good quality sleep, anger, aggression, not taking enjoyment is things that you usually take enjoyment in," explained Fox.
 
All of the above are signs that the job could be taking a toll on you.
 
For more information on the program, click here.

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