Ore. firefighters campaign for mental health care
Portland Firefighters' Association Local 43 is seeking more help from city officials in dealing with stress from traumatic calls
By FireRescue1 Staff
PORTLAND, Ore. — A firefighters union launched a campaign asking the city for more help when coping with stress from traumatic calls.
KGW8 reported that the Portland Firefighters’ Association Local 43 is asking the city to improve the Employee Assistance Program and the Trauma Intervention Program, which are both run by June Vining.
“We have over 700 sworn members and one person who's trying to be a clearing house,” Vining said. “You know, I do just what I can to answer the calls that I get, but being proactive is a dream and not a reality right now.”
Local 43 vice president Isaac McLennan said it has not been easy asking for an increase in funds for mental health care. He hopes that a recent survey in which 19 percent of 7,000 firefighters across the country said they have had thoughts of suicide and 65 percent said they were haunted by memories of bad calls will help them see the bigger picture.
“Some still think that if they seek help after a traumatic call, it means they're weak or they can’t cut it,” McLennan said. “We're really good at treating other people; we're not good at treating ourselves.”
“We have to do something to support all these people who are taking care of the rest of us every day when we call 911 and we have an emergency,” Vining said.
Portland Fire and Rescue Public Information Officer Louisa Jones said they are “aware of the emerging data surrounding firefighter mental health and PTSD,” and are working to implement a behavioral health program.
Jones added that 27 percent of their firefighters are currently using the Employee Assistance Program.
“We believe this is indicative of our members seeking help before they reach a crisis point, and that is a very good thing,” Jones said.