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Firemen Battle PTSD

By on 08/05/2015
firemen battle PTSD

Firemen Battle PTSD


Among the most common mental health conditions experienced by firefighter across the globe is post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD  is often acquired after experiencing a disturbing, or traumatic event, and is classified as an anxiety disorder which can be identified through persistent symptoms such as high emotional arousal, flashbacks, numbing or even avoidance of memories of past events.  When you think about it, there are many jobs which inevitably involve experiencing disturbing and/or traumatic events.  One such career is firefighting.  Studies have shown that due to the intense level of stress and traumatic events that firefighters are faced with, that in addition to battling fires, many firemen battle PTSD also.

The firefighting career often involve numerous stressful activities which increases the risk of developing PTSD. Various studies on a general population revealed that fire fighter have a higher risk of experiencing PTSD and there is need to develop training programs to help them manage and cope with the condition.

Today, there are fewer fire calls to buildings, and improved fire response in the united states mainly due to the advanced fire prevention technology.  These advancements include smoke detectors, flame retardant building materials, as well as  highly effective installed sprinkler systems.  However, the firefighting occupation is still prone to numerous stressful and hazardous events that may result to post-traumatic stress disorder.  Compared to other occupations, firefighters are at a higher risk of death, injuries and burns due to exposure to intense heat and flames, radioactive materials, explosive, flammable or poisonous chemicals and gases.

Most professional firefighters who have experienced PTSD have sought behavioral health assistance.  However, others may lack the courage of seeking medical attention and you can identify potential sufferers by observing a few symptoms.  These symptoms often include substance abuse, self-blame, suicidal thoughts, anger, irritability, depressions as well as feelings of betrayal, mistrust and guilt.  A recent study involving about 342 active fire fighters revealed that about 37% of active firefighter experience PTSD.  The study involved firefighters from all seniority levels, marital statuses, age groups, educational backgrounds and roles.

A 2012 study on active Israeli fire fighters showed that those suffering from full PTSD were about 24 percent, with only about 9% showing no symptoms.  About 67% of the firefighters showed partial PTSD.  All together, the 2012 study on the prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among firefighters in Israel indicates that approximately 90 percent show some form of full or partial symptoms.    –Beer Sheva, Israel

According to the study, PTSD can also occur due to exposure to fatal injuries or even death of a partner. These events leads to persistent stress symptoms such as trouble sleeping and nightmares. Emergency situations such as evacuation of injured or burnt bodies and victims also results to post-traumatic emotional expressions that can even develop into secondary traumatization. Unlike firefighters in other part of the world.  Israeli firefighters are also exposed to extreme traumatizing events such as terror strikes and war.

The numerous studies carried out on firefighter in different parts of the world have revealed the risks endured by firefighters and how they can be assisted to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder.  The studies also revealed that most firefighter lack support and compassion from the public, business officials and even government agencies. According to the study on Israeli firefighters, most of them even received negative editorial coverage by the media, which also contributed to raised anxiety levels.  During their training, firefighters receive little or no support to help them in coping with traumatic events and stress.  However, after a distressing incident, a critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) is normally carried out by some fire departments.

The main objective of the critical incident stress debriefing is to reduce the long term psychological impact resulting from a critical incident.  CISD also aims at increasing and accelerating the recovery process.  The debriefing is also helpful in regenerating the normal support process.  It is often implemented after incidences with mass causalities and fatalities mainly involving children, fire department members or any other that may affects a firefighter’s well-being.  However, CISD does not provide fire fighters with long term follow-up support and most firefighter end up suffering from recurring and adverse side effects.  At extreme levels, continuous emotional trauma can lead to serious health conditions such as insomnia, severe depression, heart attacks as well as gastrointestinal problems and anxiety.

Chaplaincy programs are some of the most effective ways of helping firefighter in dealing with stressful events. Beside the individual firefighter, the chaplaincy programs also provide spiritual and emotional assistance to other fire departments members and their families.  However, research has shown that there is need for more training programs that should be effective training firefighters in dealing with their emotional wellness, grief, suicidal thoughts and addiction.  The training programs should also consist of orientation programs to prepare recruits for the psychological and physical events and situations involved in the profession.




1. Learn about Biofeedback for Stress Management from Wellness Coach Connection

2.  90 Percent of Firefighters Exhibit Symptoms of PTSD, Israeli Study Suggests



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