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  • PTSD in the Fire Service: Outline of IAFF Webinar
    Updated On: May 26, 2015

    PTSD in the Fire Service: Outline of IAFF Webinar

    Dr. Robert Smith, Ph.D. Clinical Director, IFD Peer Support Group/ Hamilton County Firefighters Peer Support Unit

    The following outline content is from the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) webinar on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among firefighters.  Both Peer Support Groups will be bringing this handout to all IFD, Marion and Hamilton County fire stations in the next several months.

    1. FACT: Percent of PTSD reported in general population-----8% Among Fire Fighters= 15-20% 2. Rates of Suicide on the increase

    3. Increase in problems regarding behavioral Health---There is still a negative stigma attached to reaching out. for counseling assistance/ behavioral health wellness


    What does P.T.S.D. cost?
    4-6 billion $ in two years
    Note: 50% of professional Fire Fighters are veterans with double exposures to traumas. Can be 100% disabling but does not have to be.

    Fire Fighters have increased rates of PTSD symptoms from job traumas 7% of those reporting go out on early retirement

    PTSD is the only diagnosis that requires a specific causative event. PTSD symptoms are in the following clusters.

    1. Re-experiencing of traumatic even
    2. Avoidance of reminders of traumatic event.
    3. Numbing of emotions following the traumatic event. 4. Increased arousal (e.g., nightmares, jumpy)
    5. Impairment of functioning on and off of the job.

    It doesn't have to end a career
    Doesn't mean going postal

    • Is very real

    • Stigma is also very real

    • Won’t magically heal with time

    • Other behavioral health problems associated with P.T.S.D.

      • Depression

      • Suicide

      • Substance Abuse

      • Increased violence—both marital and family

    • What predicts P.T.S.D. in Fire Fighters?

      • Lack of Support (Station’s team has decreased social support)

      • A prior diagnosis of PTSD

      • Clinically depressive symptoms

      • Increased anxiety

      • Increased negative appraisal (negative attitude) before a post traumatic event.

      • Increased drinking to cope

      • A combination of low social support and high stress

    • What can help?

      • Reduce the stigma

      • Provide evidence supported resources

      • Ask if you see warning signals

      • Educate and empower each other

    Consider pre-employment assessments

    What to look for:

    • Environment: City and culture

    • Teams: Do individual crews upport wellness?

    • Individuals: people are good at knowing the mental health of peers


    • Peer support. -------IFD. 317-283-6360, HAMILTON CO departments and Zionsville

      FD. CALL LOCAL 4416 317.773.8805

    • EAP-most departments have one.

    • Finding a therapist that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (best research)

    • Community based: AA, NA

    • Psychological first aid / Resilience Training

    • Leadership coaching to reduce stigma

    • Education: Fact vs. Fiction

    • Policy clarification to line Fire Fighters

    What does FDNY Peer Support Program look like? ** Peer Support Program

    • Education/Training with trusted Fire Fighters (Peers)

    • Training for recruits

    • Information on website

    • Inform how to identify PTSD

    • Inform resources in community

    • Education campaigns: various topics/posters/presentations

    • Education reduces stigma

    • Peer program-regular station visits

    • Respond to traumatic events

    • Department needs to locate resources

    • Look at policies that could be obstacles 

  • IAFF Local 4416

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