By Gloria Casas, Courier-News:
Firefighters may be brave and fearless heroes to young children, but in real life, they’re just regular human beings whose minds and bodies are subjected to unimaginable trauma and stress, Carpentersville Fire Chief John Paul Schilling said in his keynote speech Saturday at the at the Elgin Area Firefighters’ Memorial Service.
Firefighters and fire officials from around the area gathered at the Elgin Fire Barn No. 5 Museum this weekend for the ceremony, which is intended to honor firefighters who have died in the line of duty, as well as those who have died in the last year.
In his speech, Schilling said studies show firefighters are exposed to more traumatic stress in a single 24-hour shift than the average American experiences in a lifetime.
“In 2017, there were 103 documented firefighter suicides in America, whereas there were 93 line-of-duty deaths,” Schilling said. “This statistic is staggering. The fire service and firefighters alike are known for their resilience in the face of adversity. The fire service is known for problem recognition and determining solutions to save lives. I ask you, ‘What if you can make a difference? If not you, then who?’”
Schilling said Elgin Fire Chief David Schmidt asked him to give the memorial message at the annual service and he thought long and hard about what he wanted to say. He decided to use the opportunity to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder among firefighters after hearing about the staggering statistic, Schilling said.
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Image: Gloria Casas, Courier-News