Saturday, September 10, 2011

We are Killing Ourselves Through Suicide

Ontario plan to help first responders deal with PTSD
February 1, 2016
TORONTO - Ontario is launching a plan to help first responders deal with the impact of post traumatic stress disorder, which the government calls a serious and debilitating injury.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn says the stress and danger faced by police, firefighters and paramedics can have a lasting and serious effect not only on their physical health, but their mental health as well.

And this is why it happened. Change came after Shannon Pennington wrote the following.

There are many people working on PTSD. I focus on the troops and veterans but there are others also focusing on other responders. Shannon Pennington of Firefighter Veteran Network is one of the dedicated people helping the firefighters. He sent this email that I believe should be known to everyone in this country.
Shannon Pennington ex IAFF Calgary

Executive Director
F.I.R.E.S. Within Suicide Prevention Program

firefighterveteran on the world wide web:
Firefighter Veteran Network
July 11-12, 2011 BWI Four Points Sheraton
Baltimore Maryland

July On Line E Newsletter for North American Firefighter Veteran Network

We are Killing Ourselves Through Suicide
(Non Line of Duty Death, Suicides)

Welcome to this issue on a very complex and vitally important topic. I was invited along with several other organizations to attend the Issues of Depression and Suicide in the Fire Service.

First and foremost a huge thank you to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation for taking this subject on under the Everyone Goes Home Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives Section 13, Mental Health and Wellness of the 16 components for our safety in the most dangerous profession in the world.

At there has been a direct presence and information about suicide prevention in our service using the F.I.R.S.T. S.T.E.P. H.O.P.E. program since 2006. From the meeting in Baltimore with the introduction of the N.A.F.F.V.N. program "F.I.R.E.S. Within", F.I.R.E.S. standing for Firefighter/First Responder Increased Risk Exposure to Suicide, information will be developed and posted on the web site and on the Everyone Goes Home web site under section 13, reinforceing the Fireline with resources, information and web based training.

These will be tools for the tool box you can use to combat the effects of depression and for some the "run into suicide". The information will provide H.O.P.E. through an understanding that "Suicides are Increasing" in our service as fast as any wild fire moves and consumes or as any structural fire erupts into open flame in the incipient stage and before 911 is called and rigs dispatched.

Line of Duty Death (L.O.D.D.) we in the fire service understand, perhaps all too well. Our response is quick, efficient, supportive to family and "rubber boot warriors" who clean the smoke sweat and tears off their faces and uniforms to render "last post" honors for the fallen and the family as well as the department affected. We are if nothing else good at the big "IT".

There is another bit "IT" however, lurking like an arsonist in the dark back alleys and open fields of our hearts and minds.

We are going to talk in this article about the other big "It" and what we can do and what is being done to "Cool, Quell and Quench the F.I.R.E.S. Within" each and every "Firefighter Veteran/First Responder working in the cities, towns, and rural "Fire Front Lines" of America and around the world.

Suicide became a very hot topic over the last 12 months and with the outbreak in Phoenix Fire Department along with other fire departments nationally, the all call went out to find the help and resources to start fighting back. For some, in our work, suicide was the "Only Option" and they could not see their way out of the emotional smoke of events that they had been witness to or a part of. For others the long dark road of "Depression" was a precursor to death. Those who took their life as a final act to stop the pain inside of them left behind a legacy of pain in the survivors, the widows and orphans, the very same ones we hold close under L.O.D.D. we somehow manage to abandon and leave behind under suicide circumstances. The shock waves go through the members immediate crew and department and cloud them in thoughts of what went wrong.

Firefighter Brad Pasishnek out of Local 255, I.A.F.F. Calgary Alberta Canada. One of ten suicides in the local. Brad took a skill saw to his neck to commit his final act in life. He left behind a wife, Christine and his two young boys, Connor and Daniel. I talked with Christine about the conference and she gave me permission to talk about Brad if it would make a difference to those who would be there and to firefighters who need to know that Brad lived a firefighterveterans life and died from the stress. She wants you to know that her widows struggle to raise her and Bradley's children is taking place without access to any support programs that could make a difference to their lives. Do you think people that we could do a little better than to abandon them beyond a mere token assist on getting the pension details sorted out for a survivor?

Depression is much like the smoke in a room that has become dormant and is waiting for a sudden inrush of air in order to ignite itself into a full blown back draft of emotions that explodes and runs wild within our heads. Somewhere between the head and the heart we are connected to the events that affect us in our line of work and the inch and a half hose needs to be gated back to a safe working emotional pressure so that we can start to talk about what is going on inside of us. From flashover to the free burning state the depression we experience in the attic or the basement, our heads or our guts, is consuming us in the form of suicide.

Too soon "IT" can consume us and the Perp Arsopnist that controls our thoughts and moods will gleefully retreat to find more firefighters to cull from our ranks.

N.L.O.D.D/S or Non Line of Duty Death/Suicides "CAN BE PREVENTED". It need not be so in the terrible outcome. F.I.R.E. Prevention is the key to the success of the American Fire Service when it comes time to face up to the reality of what has been going on in front of us in the crews, the departments and the culture that makes us who we are.

I did not enjoy the experience of being in a room of some 40 fire service leaders who were in Baltimore on July 11th and 12th 2011 to discuss the very topic of Depression and Suicide. It was not pretty, nor nice, nor happy, or joyous. It was worse than a basement fire fully involved with kids trapped. The honesty, and integrity that those who did attend, gave to the understanding, was to my way of thinking, powerfully presented. It was a drama like no other that I have experienced in my 26 years as a line firefighterveteran and as a member of my honor guard. It was however, necessary and a "wake up call" to take action.

In the near future from the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation under the leadership and direction of Executive Director Ronald J. Siarnicki,you will see on their web site under the section 13 mandate on line, web based training. Look for it. That should be available by the end of the year.

Additional resources to train rural clinicians on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (C.B.T.) will be made available. Peer support is vital in vetting those who are at risk and who need patience, understanding, love and support. If we give ourselves in service to our communities in need then we too have to recognize that we are a community and we have needs and those needs are inclusive of our protection of our own. The best peer practices are being developed but from what I heard in the symposium both Phoenix Fire, F.D.N.Y and Houston Fire have the skeleton models you can research for your own department.

The following individuals came to the symposium to present their side of the suicide equation which, is both academic and from life events which affected them.

Thomas Joiner, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, Florida State University. Dr. Joiner lost his father to suicide some years ago. He not only came armed with his research but with his story of loss and movement beyond the loss into the understanding.

Matthew K. Nock, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, presenting in depth knowledge of suicide, the study into the math of statistics and how it all adds up.

Lanny Berman, Ph.D., ABPP, Executive Director, American Association of Suicidology who presented a solid overview of the problem and some examples of how to develop programs in prevention.

Ron Acierno, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology, Medical University of South Carolina, Director, PTSD Clinic, RJH VA Medical Center. (We are not alone with the suicide problem, veterans from the armed services are struggling to cope with this as well).

Additional heavy hitters were from the I.A.F.F., Rich Duffy, Assistant to the President,

Jeff Dill, Safety, Health and Survival Representative, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Jeff is conducting an on line survey of numbers of fire department suicides. He is the founder of Counseling For Firefighters (CFF) google. If you know of a suicide of a firefighterveteran then send your report to Jeff, confidential on line. We need the information so that grant applications can be made to help us study the problem in depth.

Thomas D. Miller MA, LPC, ALPS, ADC, West Virginia Director, National Volunteer Fire Council

Sandy Bogucki, Md, Ph.D. National Association of EMS Physicians,

Wendy Norris, Master Chaplain/Administrative Assistant, Federation of Fire Chaplains,

Karen Badger, Ph.D., MSW, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, Assistant Professor, College of Social Work, University of Kentucky. A special thank you from me to Karen for her grounding while I was wanting to leap out of my chair and shout out the need to have a program for our widows and orphans left behind. We got that message to the participants and it will be a part of their focus and follow on for inclusion in the outcome and protocols.

A full list of participants is available from me if you request it via email.

Richard Gist, Ph.D. did stellar work keeping us on track and focused. Richard is the Principal Assistant to Fire Chief Kansas City (MO) Fire Department and a Research Associate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

In summary:

So, what can we say here about what is going on regarding suicides in our service?

It is a problem that can be resolved. IT IS OUR PROBLEM AND WE OWN IT AND WE CAN FIND THE SOLUTIONS NEEDED. We need to reach out with programs that are active and supportive. Look around the fire service and start talking to other departments that are doing just that. Talk to each other at the kitchen table about depression. Google the subject and look at and the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation section 13 Life Safety Initiative.

We do not have to re invent anything....we do have to do what is obvious. Stop looking away from the problem of Depression and Suicide in our fire service and start to face it full on on the fireline where it can be put out. We have adopted a defensive mode for far too long and lost too many good firefighterveterans. It is time to go on the offensive and bring on the additional resources that are already out there.

The fire bucket is full of the tears from surivivors, the widows and orphans who have been left behind by those who have lost H.O.P.E. We can do better than this. We are going to do better and you will see the programs start to roll.

In conclusion I will say that this has not been an easy process nor should it be to bring this newsletter/article to the web. It is however necessary. Like it or not the body parts are starting to cause departments to stumble on them. They are awake and listening to the message from those who took their lives. Are you?

Additional Information on Suicide Prevention is Available from your Primary Care Physician, and your local community mental health care clinics.
The Sweeny Alliance writes on line in blog and newsletter form. Use Google to find this.

Above all else: Guard your mind at work and at home. Depression happens to us. We are not superhumans but rather very human and vulnerable in the work we do. Let's get connected to the information. Buddy up for close support. Find a clinician who will work with you if you do feel the need to seek help. There is life beyond depression and it is something that is survivable if you get the help that is out there. Know the signs and symptoms of depression. Understand that booze and drugs mask the symptoms of depression and only cause you to loose focus on the positive aspects of a healthy life and healthy life choices. You deserve better and your family deserves you complete and whole.......GET A MENTAL HEALTH CHECK UP ONCE A YEAR JUST AS YOU GET A PHYSICAL......IT MAKES COMMONS SENSE.

A special thank you to Christine Pasishnek and her sons. Peace and Prayers for the three of you.

"Lets Roll"

Stay safe

Shannon Pennington
F.I.R.S.T. S.T.E.P. H.O.P.E.

Firefighter PTSD, Depression and Suicide -- Helping the Helpers
By JANE E. ALLEN, ABC News Medical Unit
Sept. 9, 2011
When Jack Slivinski Jr., a member of Philadelphia's elite fire rescue squad, killed himself last June, friends and family partly blamed the humiliating suspension he endured after he posed barechested for a firefighters' fund-raising calendar without department permission.

However, few people were aware that the caring, 32-year-old former Marine had been quietly drowning in survivor's guilt in the seven years since his supervisor suffered fatal burns racing into a collapsing building to rescue Slivinski and another firefighter, unaware they'd both gotten out.

"It was very apparent when you got to know Jack that it was something that was wearing on him," said Lt. Dan Cliggett, his close friend inside and outside the firehouse. Cliggett, along with Slivinski's wife, Carla, from whom he'd separated but hoped to reconcile, believe Slivinski had developed post-traumatic stress disorder because he felt responsible for the death of Lt. Derrick Harvey, 45.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made heroes of the 343 New York City firefighters who lost their lives rushing to save others at the World Trade Center. But that tragic, life-changing day has also had a more subtle impact on the nation's first responders: It created more awareness, if not empathy, for the sacrifices they make in putting others' lives ahead of their own physical and psychological health. It also generated changes in firehouse culture and attitudes.
read more here
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