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As a department, we are expected to be proficient in mitigating every type of emergency imaginable. Whether it’s a basic medical emergency, a gruesome 10-car pileup on the interstate, or a house fire with reports of people still inside, we are expected to show up, save the day, and go home. We train extensively on how to deal with these incidents. We train theories, tactics, laws, SOPs, roles, positions, literally everything; however, as much as we train and practice on handling these emergencies, we rarely, if ever, train and practice on how to process the trauma that we encounter. No matter if you are a brand-new firefighter waiting to run your first call, or you’re a battalion chief looking forward to retirement, the way we process the things we see on a daily basis should not only be something we routinely talk about, but it should also be something we train on as well. National data suggests that mental health issues in our profession have become an epidemic. The number of firefighters suffering from depression, substance abuse, and PTSD continues to grow at an alarming rate. If one of us were lost inside of a fire, all personnel on scene would be completely devoted to risking their lives for those unaccounted for without a thought. The fact is that we are losing brothers and sisters to a different type of fire, a type of fire that we cannot see. It is in this spirit that the Tallahassee Fire Department Peer Support group has been established.

Although we do have Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) in place after large, traumatic incidents, the Peer Support Group is here to assist members of TFD with stress both big and small, on and off the job. We want anyone in our department that may be suffering from mental or emotional concerns to know that you are certainly not alone. If you feel that you or someone you know at TFD may be suffering, please reach out to us. I speak on behalf of myself, the Peer Support Team, and your brothers and sisters here at TFD when I say you don’t have to carry that weight on your own. We are here to talk to, vent to, and support. We are not trained counselors, but we all share the passion to see our fellow TFD members have productive, healthy careers. Feel free to contact any one of us at any time, and we’ll be available to help in any way we can, be it stress from the job, stress from home, or any variety of concerns that may be causing you or another member to suffer. Anything you talk about with us is entirely confidential. Our conversations will remain private, and we’ll fully devote ourselves to making sure each person at TFD is able to not only enjoy our profession, but also to have a long, successful career.

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