First responder suicide: The chronic stress correlation

EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board member Ann Marie Farina discusses first responder suicide, mental health with Vox

The public safety sector – including fire service, law enforcement, EMS and corrections – has made significant gains in raising awareness around suicide among first responders. But did you know that sometimes the very messages used to promote awareness can cause harm and undermine suicide prevention efforts?

Fortunately, there is a safe way to talk about suicide. Learn to convey messages of hope and resiliency and promote positive, help-seeking behaviors in a free on-demand webinar, "Words Matter: How to safely communicate about suicide," available here.

By EMS1 staff

Vox, an explanatory news platform that shares people’s stories in politics, policy, business, pop culture, science and more, recently featured an interview with EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board Member Ann Marie Farina, NR-P.

Farina, who has worked as a wildland fire medic, a firefighter/paramedic, a 911 transport medic and as an educator in EMS, founded The Code Green Campaign, a mental health awareness campaign that raises awareness about mental health conditions and suicide in first responders.

Photo/ Wikimedia Commons

More first responders die by suicide than in the line of duty. National survey data suggest EMTs have a tenfold higher incidence of suicidal thoughts and attempts than the general public.

In the Vox exclusive, “Why suicide is a top cause of death for police officers and firefighters,” Farina relates how first responders are trained on physical and scene safety, but not on how to protect their mental health. “Research shows that chronic workplace stress has a more significant impact on first responder mental health than critical incidents such as officer-involved shootings or pediatric cardiac arrests. Chronic workplace stress is triggered by difficult work schedules, a chronic lack of sleep, and inadequate equipment, but it also includes more insidious issues,” she noted.

“On days when there are headlines like ‘Three NYPD officers dead by suicide in less than 10 days,’ it can feel like nothing has been accomplished. However, I know that isn’t the case. Progress is being made, even if it lags behind that of other safety initiatives,” Farina told Vox. “We can’t bring back those we’ve lost, but we can keep working to look out for ourselves and each other in order to avoid losing any more.”

Learn more about first responder mental health and suicide

Read the Vox article by Ann Marie Farina here, and learn more about how to prevent suicide, identify when an EMS colleague is struggling with mental health issues and how to build mental health resilience with these articles from EMS1:

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