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Firefighters work to reduce stigma around mental health issues

Euclid Fire Department Lt. Bill Mastroianni said the department’s peer-to-peer support teams are the first step in the right direction


By FireRescue1 Staff

EUCLID, Ohio —A fire department is working to reduce the negativity surrounding mental health issues by changing firefighter culture with peer support teams.

News-Herald reported that the Euclid Fire Department’s peer-to-peer support program is made up of firefighters who are trained in active listening and crisis intervention, and Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters director of operations Lt. Bill Mastroianni thinks the program is the first step in the right direction.

“We need to start by changing the stigma in the fire service that we are all tough guys and don’t have feelings,” Lt. Mastroianni said. “To make this happen we need to have a significant change in the culture as well. We need to recognize the signs of behavioral health issues amongst our brothers and sisters and get them the help they need.”

The firefighters trained for the program work as a bridge to give firefighters access to the resources they may need, according to IAFF Occupational Health and Safety director Jim Brinkley.

“Firefighters do not trust anybody but themselves especially when they are hurting and they need help,” Brinkley said. “What we learned many years ago was that the peer support model is the most effective, not only does it reduce the stigma, it helps build resiliency.”

The program currently has 30 firefighters to deploy to stations in either Ohio or throughout the country to help firefighters in distress after a traumatic incident or the death of a colleague.

“The program just rolled out in Ohio this year, so with it being in its infancy, it’s still too early to measure its effectiveness,” team member Matt Askea said. “Basically we are trying to figure it out. It’s all a work in progress right now.”

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