PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - More firefighters committed suicide in the U.S. than died in the line of duty in 2015 and 2016, according to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance. That group’s founder is part of a movement to try to change those statistics.
“Saying that we’re supposed to be strong and brave and handle it ourselves, it’s impossible to do," said Jeff Dill, founder and CEO of FBHA.
Silence often surrounds the emotions that come with constantly witnessing tragedy.
“When I started in my career 12 years ago, this stuff wouldn’t have existed," said Heather Crary, a captain paramedic for Martin County Fire Rescue. "This was not encouraged. This was not talked about and that was only 12 years ago.”
However, information about post traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide and how to talk about those issues was all put out in the open in Palm Beach Fire Rescue Station 3 this week.
“Doing an internal size up meaning look within yourself to see why am I acting this way?" Dill said.
Palm Beach Fire Rescue firefighters along with members of other departments around the area sat in on training sessions with Dill.
Years of research has gone into the course he around the country, but Indian River County Battalion Chief David Dangerfield is the reason he came to South Florida to talk about it. Dangerfield suffered from PTSD and committed suicide in October 2016. Dangerfield’s wife, Leslie, set up the training.
“She wanted to do something and give back," Dill said.
Continuing to talk is exactly what Palm Beach Fire Rescue and other departments will continue to do.
“We’re seeing that mental health issues are at the forefront of discussions now," said Sean Baker, Palm Beach Fire Rescue Division Chief of Emergency Medical Services.
"Our department has suffered actually an exorbitant amount of losses and there’s not a lot of resources available in our area, so we’re working very hard," Crary said.
“If you see something don’t ignore it," said Danny Dirocco, a firefighter paramedic for Palm Beach Fire Rescue.