By Lisa Kaczke, West Central Tribune:
A new collaboration is taking shape in Wisconsin to connect firefighters to mental health resources.
The Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association has created a task force on mental health to ensure support services are available to fire departments statewide. Association President Jon Cohn, fire chief in Greenfield, Wis., said they’re using existing resources in the interim while they build a network of peer counselors, who will be trained in talking with firefighters who need help and also to recognize when a firefighter needs a mental health professional to step in.
They plan to begin a helpline for Wisconsin firefighters to call, but until that’s operational, firefighters can contact Cohn at (414) 301-2646.
Cohn said he wanted to focus on firefighters’ mental health when he became president of the Wisconsin fire chiefs association eight months ago, and the association has been working at it since. In the weeks following Superior Fire Battalion Chief Erik Sutton’s suicide, Cohn said he has seen an increase in awareness about firefighters’ mental health and has had firefighters, many of whom have a personal connection with a family member or fellow firefighter struggling with mental health issues, come forward to become trained peer counselors.
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