Before you continue reading, understand that this is real, raw and very personal. It focuses on the behavioral health of one of our (yours, mine and ours) Brother Firefighters, the issue of suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse. Many of you, if not most, like me, know a Brother or Sister Firefighter who has struggled. “Knowing” is not often common. The awareness, the “talk about it” or the “reach out for help” was certainly not common back in the day-and understandably, remains very difficult for many of our own these days.
I’ve been reporting and writing the facts related to Firefighter close calls and fatalities for many years. This particular story (link below, written in May of 2022), and meeting with this Firefighter had a profound impact on me-and it’s something that both he, and I want to share with you…in the hopes that it will raise your awareness, compassion, encourage your continued learning and that you will pass this on to every Firefighter you work with or know.
Firefighter behavioral health is very real and learning about it is as critical as you learning to vent, stretch a line, drive a rig-and often even more important.
When I started this job, “behavioral health” was an unknown. If we had a bad call, we had a bad call. We never talked about it other than in a dark or humorous way. Dealing with it was often deep depression, drugs and alcohol. We didn’t do an excellent job at helping people to deal with what we know today as post-traumatic stress issues. Look now in 2022 what the IAFF, the NVFC, the FRCE (and many other excellent organizations and folks) have done to raise awareness-and provide help. A far cry from years ago.
Some believe that the newer generations of Firefighters can’t “take it” or that they are different. The fact is, they are different, as was every generation compared with the generation before it. So, if you are a senior or veteran Firefighter or officer, understand that, different or not, if you’re going to claim “brotherhood or sisterhood,” you must take the time to learn and understand.
Toledo, OH, Fire & Rescue Department Firefighter Tanner Duvall shared this deeply personal story with all of us to help the brotherhood and sisterhood. I suspect that it will resonate with most, if not all, of you. By sharing his story, FF Duvall is helping to break the stigma that’s associated with behavioral health issues, and we thank him for that. There is courage in asking for help when needed.
***In Firefighter Duvall’s own words: “Is My Life Worth It?
***Related: The Emotional Close Calls
If you or someone who you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Consider your own fire department or local resources. Consider IAFF or NVFC resources. You also can call/text 9-8-8, chat at 988lifeline.org or call 844-525 FIRE (3473) for Firefighter-specific and family crisis help. Help is always there.
Take Care. Be Careful. Please Pass it On.
The Secret List 10/18/2022-1101 Hours