Dallas Fire-Rescue sees success in first year of mental health program
The Dallas program combines counseling, intervention with staff psychologists, peer support to help deal with stress and traumatic incidents
By Bill Carey
DALLAS — Officials in Dallas Fire-Rescue say their mental health wellness program is having success in its first year.
The fire department released its program a year ago after determining a trend of suicides and suicide attempts in the department and fire departments across the country, CBS Texas reported.
“Since 2018, we have had four suicides, and we have had two attempted suicides. So, we are trying to be as proactive as possible,” Executive Assistant Fire Chief Brett Stidham said.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation began tracking firefighter suicides this year and at the time of CBS Texas’ reporting, the foundation has reported a total of eight firefighter suicides across the country. Texas leads the list with three.
The Dallas Fire-Rescue program uses counseling, intervention, therapy and treatment to help firefighters and the families who need it. The department also has three psychologists on staff to handle immediate needs and offer resources to their members as new as recruits. A peer support program also allows for one-on-one interactions.
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Firefighter Casey Ellsworth is the peer support coordinator. Ellsworth said it is tough to get a group of tough-minded individuals to ask for help.
“We’re exposed to bad things,” Ellsworth said. “We were never taught what to do with them for a really long time, and so I think we are doing a better job of doing that.”
Firefighter Garrick Hyles said the program not only saved his career, but his life. An 11-year veteran of the department, Hyles said the stress and trauma of the job led him to depression and alcoholism.
“Within 36 hours they had me in treatment...I am 188 days sober now,” Hyles said.