Spokane Fire takes on mental health - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Spokane Fire takes on mental health

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Mental health has often been an issue swept under the rug by first responders. Mental health has often been an issue swept under the rug by first responders.
SPOKANE, Wash. -

The Spokane Fire Department is used to battling blazes and saving homes on a daily basis. It’s what they do. But mental health has often been an issue swept under the rug by first responders.

“People were ostracized,” Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said. “We wanted to change things.”

Fire departments around the country are beginning to see a spike in cases of Post Traumatic Stress and even suicides within their departments. Some have called it an epidemic.

So one year ago, the Spokane Fire Department contracted a first responder psychologist to meet with firefighters and address their mental health issues.

“It will give them more tools to deal with the trauma they deal with everyday,” Schaeffer said.

“PTSD is a huge issue in fire suppression,” Dr. Christen Kishel said. “They’ve seen, really the dark side of life. The things you see and can’t unsee.”

Dr. Kishel routinely holds seminars and private sessions for firefighters battling the stress. Right now they are turning their focus to building a critical incident stress management team, which would essentially act as peer support. That way firefighters could recognize problematic symptoms in their brothers and sisters on the fire line and be able to help them before it’s too late.

“My personal goal,” Dr. Kishel said, “is that no firefighter leaves the profession out of fear, out of anger, out of depression, out of resentment.”

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