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28 ways leaders can better support firefighter mental health

From family outreach to increased counseling access and more understanding from supervisors, firefighters are looking to leadership to step up in this area

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Photo/Sanibel (Florida) Fire Rescue District)

It’s not easy being a firefighter, and when it comes to mental health, the fire service leaves a lot to be desired in how it shows up for its members. But there are things that leaders can do to ease the amount of stress felt on the job.

In the latest What Firefighters Want report, we asked readers how fire departments can better support the wellbeing of their crews – and they answered.

Is your department on the cutting edge of mental health support for members? Send an email to to let us know the secret of their success and how others can duplicate it!

Firefighters sound off on mental health support

  1. “Significantly increase pay and retirement benefits.”
  2. “Acknowledge that not being OK is OK.”
  3. “Act on warning signs instead of just talking about them.”
  4. “Have a clinician on staff.”
  5. “Hire more people.”
  6. “Add a mental health day off to just wind down.”
  7. “Make services offered better known.”
  8. “Ask more questions.”
  9. “Don’t downplay [mental health issues] and make it out to be a sign of weakness.”
  10. “Offer more support services in-house and through verified sources.”
  11. “Offer alternative shift patterns that allow sleep deprivation to be minimized.”
  12. “Begin by appreciating the commitment that volunteers provide to the department.”
  13. “Ask questions after serious calls and check in.”
  14. “Implement more after-action reviews.”
  15. “Create an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).”
  16. “Be open and honest about reducing the work load.”
  17. “Get a department therapy dog to help reduce stress.”
  18. “Sick days for stress should be authorized.”
  19. “Foster more department unity with off-duty activities.”
  20. “Have a mobile app to allow members to access resources privately.”
  21. “Provide family support in addition to the support provided to members.”
  22. “Offer more downtime, especially after stressful calls.”
  23. “Acknowledge that behavioral health is a large component of the fire service and offer training, support, pay for therapy services.”
  24. “Advertise available mental health services frequently and place reminders in common areas at the station.”
  25. “Allow structured down time for on-duty exercise or meditation.”
  26. “Have the chief actually address [mental health support.]”
  27. “Make the topic of mental health less of a stigma.”
  28. “Hold more functions that include families.”
Additional What Firefighters Want Resources
FireRescue1’s 2023 state-of-the-industry survey revealed some alarming statistics related to respondents’ feelings about the job. Download your copy to learn critical insights into what is driving the perfect storm of stress among many firefighters.
Highlighting the most eye-opening results from the annual state-of-the-industry survey

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.