By Nola Valente, Community Impact:
Firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, Katy Fire Chief Russell Wilson said. To help his staff with the stress of their jobs, he has brought a comprehensive mental health initiative called Operation Resilience Program to the Katy Fire Department. It includes a peer support program, family days, workshops and evidence-based training on coping techniques.
Over the past two years, Wilson and Gabriela Morgan, a local trauma specialist, created the Operation Resilience Program to lower the stigma related to seeking treatment and to create a stronger link between firefighters’ families and their co-workers at the station. The program addresses depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and physical health. On March 25, Katy City Council accepted a $378,328 grant awarded to the KFD to fund the program for the next two years.
With the new program in place, the KFD is part of the less than 2% of fire departments across the U.S. that have a comprehensive mental health program, said Jeff Dill, a retired firefighter and founder of National Firefighter Health Alliance, which tracks first responder suicides across the U.S.
“This program will help everyone see that it’s not a weakness to talk about emotions that bother us and that it’s beneficial to talk about it, even if it’s just with the [fellow firefighters],” Assistant Fire Chief Dana Massey said. “The first time I had to speak about my struggle in a public setting, it was not easy, but it gets easier the more you talk about it.”
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