It is estimated that 30% of First Responders develop behavioral health conditions, including depression and PTSD, as compared with 20% of the general population. First Responders are usually the first on the scene to face challenging, dangerous, and draining situations. These duties, although essential, are strenuous and can lead to behavioral health consequences if not addressed. IRMA's Fire Chiefs Steering Committee has adopted a Mental Health Stand Down to raise awareness and provide resources and support to the First Responder Community and their families. All are welcome to join this Stand Down, sending the message that mental health matters.
May 15th: Mayday for Mental Health
Presented by: Ret. Fire Chief Patrick J. Kenny
People fear what they don't understand. Most cultures believe that mental illness is not a disease but rather a character deficiency and thus becomes a direct contributor to reinforcing that belief.
This presentation is delivered from a very personal perspective as Fire Chief and the turmoil that naturally evolves as a Cape Wearer from trying to maintain the "superhero" image. Real-life examples of situations will be provided that you may be faced with as the leader. You will gain insight into where your preparation, planning, and follow-up may need to be strengthened.
This presentation is intended to create awareness for attendees to:
- Self examine their perception of what mental illness is
- As leaders, to reflect on whether you are equipped to help a person in a mental health crisis including yourself
- Examine what education and resources tools have you proactively put in place to deal with the very real challenge of mental health
May 16th: Rough Seas Ahead - Steering an Organization through Tough Times
Presented by Battalion Chief Steve Conn, Colerian Twp. OH Department of Fire & EMS
This presentation will focus on leadership strategies for an organization that may be experiencing great turmoil or stress.
A line of duty death, suicide, or the loss of an integral team member can rock an organization to its very core. Loss of a major funding source or even the loss or takeover of key organizational functions can leave team members asking why, what's next and how does this affect me?
Following along with Dr. Kubler-Ross' 7 stages of personal grief, I propose that organizations experience its own type of grief in very similar stages. If we don't control the actions and narratives, disaster may be on the horizon. The way in which a leader engages the organization in these stages will determine how successful the organization is at coming out better on the other side.
It takes "Active Leadership" to steer the ship and avoid the pitfalls of doing nothing. The leaders have a direct say in how long an organization "grieves" - noting that for some, it may take a decade or more!
Presented by Molly Jones, Clinical Education Coordinator, IAFF Center of Excellence
May 17th: Behavioral Health Awareness for First Responders & Navigating Resources
This presentation highlights the most common behavioral health concerns for first responders, including depression, anxiety, substance use, post-traumatic stress and suicide. Participants will gain a greater understanding of the impact of these challenges and how certain aspects of first responder occupations are protective and risk factors for developing certain behavioral health conditions.
This presentation will include strategies for improving mental well-being and highlights available treatment resources, as well as best practices for navigating behavioral healthcare systems.
May 18th: The Lighthouse - Shining a Light on Firefighter Mental Health
Presented by Gregg Bagdade, MA, LPC, NCC, EMT-P, Counseling Center of Arlington Heights
With firefighter suicide on the rise, the unique experiences that our firefighters have do not need to equate to this ending. With the expanding arena of mental health professionals for our first responders, we are able to wrangle this deficit in a proactive manner.
There are a multitude of avenues that clinicians can provide that will break the stigma of therapy and give our front line heroes an edge on their own mental health. We can be the change for this next generation providing a guiding light for them as they navigate their experiences and provide resources for them throughout their career.
May 19th: Effects of a Fire Department Suicide - 2 Years Later
Panel Discussion with: Ret. Fire Chief Terrance Vavra, Village of LaGrange; Lieutenant Jeff Behland, Village of LaGrange; and Lauren Pray, Widow of Firefighter Adam McEvery
This presentation will provide two perspectives on the effect a suicide can have on families: the individual's family and the fire department family.
We will explore the effect on these two families two years after the loss of Firefighter Adam McEvery with the first officer on the scene Lt. Behland and with Adam’s widow, Lauren Pray. Their unique experience, perspective and coping strategies will provide you with insight should a similar tragedy occur within your organization.