A sudden increase in the firefighter suicide rate resulted in two experts from Luke Air Force Base spreading their suicide-intervention knowledge throughout local fire departments in the Phoenix area.
Senior Airman Brett Chapman, 56th Medical Operations Squadron mental health technician, and Sharon Kozak, 56th MDOS family advocacy outreach manager, teamed up in May to start the program. Since then, they have shared their knowledge with more than 460 firefighters.
The three-hour, informative and interactive briefing has received plenty of positive attention, Kozak said.
â€œAt first, we only focused on educating firefighters in the West Valley,â€ she said. â€œBut recently, we have been contacted by fire departments in Scottsdale who have requested the training. And when we finish training firefighters, we are moving on to police officers.â€
During the briefing, Chapman and Kozak went over several suicide statistics.
â€œThere were five firefighter suicides in the Phoenix area last year,â€ he said. â€œSo far this year, there have been seven.â€
This may be linked to the amount of stress servicemembers and firefighters face on the job.
According to Kozak, most suicide victims donâ€™t want to die.
â€œThey just want the pain to stop,â€ she said. â€œAnd, when it doesnâ€™t, they feel hopeless. They think the only way to stop the pain is to end their life.â€
This is when family, friends and coworkers may see some red flags, Chapman said.
â€œThese indicators can be direct or indirect pre-suicide statements,â€ he said. â€œThe suicide victim may also start giving away possessions or make a will. Usually when they make the decision to end their life, they feel relieved, which suddenly elevates their mood.â€
When someone notices these red flags, they need to take action, Kozak said.
There are three steps to helping someone who shows signs that he may be considering suicide.
â€œThe first step is intervention,â€ Chapman said. â€œJust listen and be supportive. Show you care and be genuine.â€
Next, ask about suicide and treatment.
â€œThese questions are very hard, but you have to ask them,â€ he said. â€œBe direct, but not confrontational. Ask: Are you thinking about suicide? Do you have a therapist? Are you seeing him? Are you taking your medication?â€
Then, get help.
â€œCall 911 or (800) 273-TALK (8255),â€ Chapman said. â€œMost importantly, donâ€™t leave them alone.â€
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Source: 56th MDOS