As a fourth generation firefighter, I was practically raised in a firehouse. The firehouse was and will always be one big family. There is a code and a bond that all firefighters live for each day. We run towards danger. We save lives. We are invincible. Except we are not invincible.
The physical and emotional demands that we put ourselves thru bring a toll. Ignoring this problem is like allowing a forest fire to burn unattended. It is only going to get worse.
It’s time we adopt a culture that makes it okay for a firefighter to ask for help.
Early in my career, I developed some personal issues. And had helped not been forced upon me, I would have ended up as another statistic. There was over 108 documented suicides in 2014 that we know of. Alcoholism and substance addiction are estimated to affect around 20% of firefighters nationally.
Over the past five years, I have made it part of my career to help create awareness for this problem, and to get firefighters the help that they need. Last year, I partnered with Sprout Health group, a facility that treats firefighters and first responders and we created Frontline Responder Services. Frontline is a program entirely geared for the issues first responder’s face. It this short year Frontline has become one of the most successful first responder programs in the country. Frontline asks for your help in letting firefighters know the program is available for them.
So what can you do to help your fellow firefighters? Go back to your departments and ask your HR, EAP, and union reps what they are doing to ensure that members of your fire department are getting help. If you know someone in your department who has a problem, make sure that they get the help needed. If you don’t know who to talk to, give us a call and we can help you.
The biggest step to addressing any problem is awareness. Let’s move towards a modern firefighter culture that makes asking for help among the bravest actions that a member can make.
Mark W Lamplugh Jr,
Former Captain, Lower Chichester (PA) Fire Department
Mark W Lamplugh Jr
Mark Lamplugh is a fourth-generation firefighter and former captain with the Lower Chichester (PA) Fire Company. He is the Chief Executive Officer with 360 Wellness Inc. (www.360wellness.org) and Vice President of Business Development of the Frontline Program (www.frontlinerehab.com) at Sprout Health Group. Lamplugh is also nationally recognized in Crisis Stress Intervention through the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. He has helped hundreds of firefighters, police officers, veterans, EMS personnel, and civilians nationwide find help for addiction, alcoholism, PTSD, and mental health support. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.