Firefighters learn to recognize signs of potential suicide and take action to prevent it

a fire truckNearly 1,000 Fort Worth firefighters will undergo training in suicide prevention.

In 2015, more firefighters and police officers died by suicide than in the line of duty. That was the first year for that tragic and startling statistic. It has held true every year since.

According to a report published in 2017 by the Ruderman Family Foundation, almost 250 firefighters and police officers died by suicide in 2016 compared to just over 200 who died in the line of duty. Unfortunately, those numbers may not be accurate because the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance estimates that only 40%-45% of firefighter suicides are reported.

“The members of The Fort Worth Fire Department are highly skilled, well trained and prepared to give their all for others,” said Fort Worth Fire Chief James Davis. “While they understand that risk, the expectations of the occupation place them at risk of stress, anxiety and depression. Suicide has become a great issue of concern in the fire service, outpacing line-of-duty death since 2015.”

In response to the crisis, the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation, through a donation provided by Bell Flight, is providing training for the entire Fort Worth Fire Department. The class aims to teach individuals how to recognize signs of suicidal ideology and how to take action to prevent suicide. While the focus is to educate firefighters about their peers and their families, it also gives them tools to take into the community and provide a higher level of service to residents.

“The Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training provides an easy-to-remember method for approaching the uncomfortableness of discussing this issue with people potentially at risk for harming themselves,” Davis said. “The FWFD shares the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation mission to eradicate suicide in our community. We appreciate the efforts of Tom and Ellen Harris in the memory of their daughter, and we thank Bell Flight for their gracious financial support to make this training available to our firefighters and emergency medical technicians.”

QPR training will be taught in 75 sessions to accommodate nearly 1,000 firefighters. Classes are being taught by individuals from three local organizations: the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation, 22Kill/Stay the Course (a counseling group for first responders, veterans and their families) and the Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors team.