Updated 7th January 2014
Submitted by Jeff Dill founder of FBHA Firefighter Behavioral Health Allianceand CSFF Counseling Services for Fire Fighters
FBHA Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance and CSFF Counseling Services for Fire Fighters are two organizations dedicated in helping my brothers and sisters in the fire service across the world.
In 2005, I was entering my sixteenth year in the fire service when Hurricane Katrina hit the United States and devastated many parts of the south including New Orleans. I spoke to many firefighters who returned from assisting during this tragic event and they told me about the horrific things they saw. They went to their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselors who didn’t understand the nature of our culture, so the firefighters became frustrated and never went back, but suffered in silence. It was then I believe, by the grace of God, that I was directed down the path I have traveled. I went back to school for my Master’s Degree and became a licensed counselor as well as being a career fire officer. In 2009, I founded CSFF, whose goals today are to educate counselors and chaplains, through workshops, about the fire service and Emergency Medical Services culture.
Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance was formed, as a non-for-profit, in 2011 due to numerous requests from all over the world wondering if Counseling Services for Fire Fighters did any firefighter suicide prevention programs. Like so many others, little did I realize there was a problem of firefighters taking their lives. I did weeks of research, phone calls and e-mails to see who collects the data on these tragedies. Too my surprise there was no such data or information. FBHA is now the only known entity that collects data, on a world-wide basis, of firefighter/EMS suicides. FBHA presents its workshop, Saving Those Who Save Others, all across the United States and has presented in Canada.
The nature of our culture is to be brave, show no weakness, and don’t ask for help. We are there for others during their most difficult emergencies, feeling their pain, comforting their tears, or trying to bring back to life loved ones. It can effect us in ways that most people will never experience. Even in our own personal lives we each struggle with different situations that can add stress, anxiety, depression, which can lead us to fall prey to addictions, post-traumatic stress (PTS) or suicide ideations.
In my own personal life I struggle with PTS, but I talk about it to hopefully be a symbol to others that it is okay to hurt and to ask for help. This is what our workshop is designed to do. Saving Those Who Save Others educates on signs/symptoms, communications, resources, role-play, retirement and other issues to assist firefighters and fire officers.
FBHA, in the past two years, has met thousands of firefighters, made great friends, talked to hundreds of families who lost a loved one due to suicide and because of their love and pain has dedicated a scholarship program for children of firefighter suicides. With the grace of God, FBHA will continue for many years, to promote to my brothers and sisters that we are human beings and that it is okay to ask for help when you are suffering.
Jeff Dill holds a Masters Degree in Counseling, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and is currently a Captain at Palatine Rural Fire Protection District in Inverness, Illinois. He is a member of the American Counseling Association, Illinois Counseling Association, Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association, Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, International Association of Fire Chiefs, and Illinois Professional Firefighter’s Association, and the International Association of Fire Fighters.
He is dedicated to educating counselors, chaplains, firefighters and emergency personnel on the importance of behavioral health and suicide awareness.