COLORADO: Denver firefighters talk about suicide prevention

November 06, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News
Speaker:  Colorado

9News Colorado

After the suicide of one of their long-time firefighters, the Denver Fire Department made suicide prevention a priority and started working with the Carson J Spencer Foundation to develop a suicide prevention program. Firefighters are at increased risk for suicide because they see trauma every day in their job and they have a culture of needing to be tough and strong. Seeing this trauma creates stress, and “those situations can make them (firefighters) unafraid of violence or self-injury,” said Sally Spencer-Thomas, founder and CEO of the foundation. From the firefighters’ perspective, Denver Fire Chief Eric Tade said, “We try to just file it away and not let it affect us, try to have that hard exterior.” But the Denver firefighters are now changing the way they think and are seeing mental health as equally important as physical health in the department’s wellness program. They discussed their new focus on suicide prevention at the National Firefighters Chiefs Conference in October, and also plan to talk with firefighters from across Colorado about how to start a program in their departments. “As long as we can see into the future, it will be part of our training,” said Chief Tade.

Spark Extra! To learn more about the effect of suicide emergency calls on firefighters and how they can cope with the emotional effects, check out this video.