A Firefighter who committed suicide in 2019 while on duty had been continuously bullied by other Firefighters in his fire department. Please read the following and then we’ll end with some quick thoughts.
Amsterdam Firefighter Memet Yildirir had worked for the Amsterdam Fire Department (The Netherlands) since 2008. Yildirir had been bullied since 2017 when another Firefighter pulled a so-called “egg prank” on Yildirir. The colleague promised Yildirir 50 euros if he was allowed to break three eggs on Yildirir’s head. Instead of three, the colleague only used two eggs and then snatched the envelope away.
Jokes about the incident continued despite Yildirir voicing his disapproval. Yildirir suffered from psychosis and a burnout in 2018 for which he went into treatment. After five months, his psychologist said that Yilidir’s self-confidence and mental stability had “considerably increased”.
Yet, the bullying continued and Yildirir’s mental health began to decline in 2019. Some of his colleagues were concerned about Yildirir’s wellbeing.
On December 3, 2019, Yildirir first stabbed a colleague who had been making jokes about him with a scissor, then hurt himself with a knife before jumping out of a window. Emergency responders tried to resuscitate him but Yildirir succumbed to his injuries. The Firefighter (Yildrir) left a note reading, “Colleagues, thanks for the lesson and for ruining my life!”
After Yildirir’s death, the new fire brigade commander Tijs van Lieshout refused a recommendation by public prosecutors in 2020 to launch an internal investigation into the firefighter’s death. “The extra investigation would bring discomfort to Firefighters who are still mourning their colleague’s death,” Van Lieshout told Yildirir’s widow.
It was known and well documented that in the Amsterdam FD department there has been a culture of racist and sexist jokes. Several other AFD members have committed suicide in the past, yet Yildirir was the first to kill himself while on duty.
When you read this, you may agree or you may think “come on….toughen up…how bad can that be…?”
The issue is that it doesn’t matter what you or I think. It’s about the perception of the individual, behavior by our members as well as what is accepted on-duty behavior and what isn’t-all based upon organizational policy and training on that policy-along with local state and Federal laws. It is also, IMO, the importance of how things proceed…from the start:
How your department hires.
How your department screens.
How your department trains.
How your department trains supervises and expects supervision.
And THE POLICY and RELATED TRAINING (initial and ongoing) on the above.
Here are some related thoughts on the issues of “Firefighter behavioral health”…
“Emotional Firefighter Close Calls”
As we have seen, with social media these days, anyone can be perceived as an expert on anything.
Especially when it comes to FIREFIGHTER BEHAVIORAL HEALTH. Anyone can write about anything and even offer advice…some even speak and do seminars etc. But be warned:
PLEASE, when seeking help on behavioral health related issues, seek a well proven and vetted EXPERT with credentials to insure you/your department are being led down the right path.
Behavioral health is nothing to be led by anyone who doesn’t have immaculate credentials, related degreed education and/or certifications, measurable experience and overwhelmingly strong references of success.
Take Care. Be Careful. Pass it On.