Alarming rate of PTSD among firefighters raises mental health concerns

A recent survey conducted by the National Fire Agency (NFA) has found that a staggering 40 percent of firefighters are grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), raising concerns about the mental health of these first responders.

The “2023 Firefighter Mental Health Survey,” based on interviews with 52,802 firefighters between March and May 2023, showed that 44 percent were identified as at-risk individuals requiring management or treatment for at least one of four major psychological conditions: PTSD, depression symptoms, sleep disorders and problematic alcohol consumption. This revelation underscores the urgent need for targeted mental health support for those who regularly face traumatic situations.

“Although the mental health of firefighters improved last year amid the pandemic, many still require urgent management,” the NFA said in a statement.

The findings have prompted immediate calls for action, with experts and lawmakers emphasizing the necessity of prioritizing mental health initiatives for firefighters. Rep. Oh Young-hwan of the Democratic Party of Korea, a former firefighter, expressed deep concern, saying, “The high prevalence of PTSD and the increased risk of suicide among firefighters demand urgent attention and comprehensive support systems.”

Moreover, the survey highlighted that a distressing 5 percent of surveyed firefighters are at high risk for suicide.

Individuals at high risk have indicated contemplating suicide at least once annually. The emotional toll of their demanding profession has left a notable portion of firefighters contemplating suicide, shedding light on a critical aspect of their mental well-being.

The National Fire Agency acknowledges the severity of the situation and is urged to enhance mental health programs tailored specifically to address the challenges faced by firefighters. As the firefighting community grapples with these alarming figures, there is a growing consensus on the need to prioritize mental health resources and support those who risk their well-being to protect others.

Meanwhile, two young firefighters who lost their lives in a recent fire at Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang Province, were honored in a memorial service at Daejeon National Cemetary, Saturday. Kim Soo-kwang, 27, and Park Soo-hoon, 35, were remembered as heroes after responding to the fire at an industrial complex in Mungyeong on Jan. 31.

Upon hearing reports from civilians that there might be people inside, Kim and Park courageously entered the building to search for survivors and attempt a rescue. Unfortunately, they were unable to escape the rapidly spreading fire.