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Spike in firefighter suicide leads to mental health program

Officials are now training firefighters to let them know it’s OK to ask for help

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Fire Department is now training firefighters on how to be mentally strong after an alarming trend in suicides.

In 2012, the department had four suicides in a short period of time, Fox10Phoenix reported. Since then, more than eight other firefighters have died by suicide.

“When the average citizen is sleeping, we’re up dealing with all kinds of problems,” Capt. Ray Maione said. “You can go from a fire to saving a baby in a house, to a baby drowning, to an older person having a heart attack. You never know what you’re going to see on a daily basis.”

Jeff Dill, founder of the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, tracks firefighter and EMT suicides across the country. He said education, awareness and resources are the first steps in preventing responders from taking their own lives.

“Family relationships are the number one reason for firefighters completing suicide, followed by depression and addictions,” Dill said. “Post-traumatic stress is actually fifth in the ranking.”

Capt. Maione said the department is now training firefighters to let them know it’s OK to ask for help.

“In the past, it’s always been something you just kept pushing to the side,” he said. “We’re human like everybody else. We have the same problems like people we answer fire calls on. We have those same problems.”