Study: Ariz. EMT suicide risk 39 percent higher than average

A recent study by the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix found that EMTs in Arizona have a much higher risk for suicide than the general public

By EMS1 Staff

PHOENIX, Ariz. — A recent study found that Arizona EMTs have a much higher suicide risk than the general public.

According to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, EMTs in Arizona carry a risk for suicide at a 39 percent higher rate than average.

“Although we were bracing ourselves to find an increase in suicides among our EMTs, I was really shocked that it was that large,” researcher Neil Vigil said.  “These findings help move the discussion of EMT suicide beyond the anecdotal and personal experiences and adds hard data showing there is a problem that needs to be addressed.”

Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center Associate Director Bentley Bobrow also helped conduct the study, and said the research began with the question, “What is the suicide rate of EMTs in Arizona?”

“As our research team began to try to answer this question, we realized that while simple, it was not an easy question to answer because there is no sole-source EMT suicide database,” he said. “So we attempted to answer the question utilizing a combination of Arizona Death Record Data. It was extremely laborious, and imperfect, but it was a way we at least could estimate the true scope of this problem.”

Vigil, who is also an EMT and former U.S. Army medic, developed an EMS resilience website in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Health Services that provides resources to help reduce suicide rates.

Researchers also teamed up with the Golder Ranch Fire District to test the effectiveness of resiliency training.

“On the worst days of our life, we know that firefighters and EMS professionals stand ready to respond at a moment’s notice, even at the risk of their own personal safety,” Vigil said. “They are community heroes who sacrifice an incredible amount to be there for us in our time of need. I feel that it’s our community’s duty to help identify and minimize the risks associated with their service. As a former U.S. Army medic and EMT myself, this subject really connects with me on a personal level.”

The researchers hypothesized that the most likely factors contributing to the high suicide rate are work stress, shift work, repeated exposure and a culture of not wanting to ask for help, among other factors.

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