Every year experts compile data to predict what is in store for fire departments in the upcoming year. These predictions and trends are believed to be some of the most important to pay attention to in the coming year.
One key prediction for 2019 is that the awareness of mental health and overall wellness is going to be an area of focus in 2019. The demands a firefighter faces on the job is not new, but an increased acknowledgment of the difficulties especially around mental health and overall wellness is essential and is continuing to gain momentum in fire departments. Department will need to create different programs, prepare, and educate themselves with the combination of being able to respond to mental and physical health needs. Some key things that fire departments can do are be proactive, develop programs, and respond.
Being proactive early on is essential. Firefighters are exposed to a lot on their job and being able to identify the red flags before they become an emergency can make all the difference. Creating ways to document exposure to carcinogens and noting the length of exposure is one way to be proactive. Also, this documentation will also help with cancer research over time.
Noticing physical wellness issues and especially mental struggles can be difficult for anyone. However, developing a program that can raise red flags about problems affecting firefighters is useful. These programs could be regular cancer screening, identifying counselors in your area, anonymous surveys, and also one-on-one conversations.
Providing firefighters with a way to respond can also help with mental health and overall wellness. This response program can include resources for what they need to make health improvements such as appointments with an oncologist or psychologist, or even deciding where peer support resides in a department. Many questions are surrounding the complexity of building and maintaining a fire department behavioral wellness program. However, remember that the fire service isn’t alone on this issue—law enforcement, EMS, the military, and the public all face similar questions about the availability and strength of creating and/or identifying such programs.
The fire service promotes resiliency, a sense of belonging and support from one another, a sense of purpose, and a strong sense of gratitude and respect from the public. Focusing on the mental health and overall wellness is essential for 2019.