ALBERT LEA, Minn. -According to a 2016 study, firefighters are three to five times more likely to experience PTSD than the general public.
Albert Lea Fire Chief Jeff Laskowske says that most of the time, firefighters are able to go about their day after responding to hard call. However, it's the build up of stress over years that can cause problems when mental health isn't managed.
"If you don't look for help or talk to people about those situations, it can become those suicidal thoughts and things like that, so we're trying to encourage firefighters and all emergency service personnel to reach out to people to get that help versus trying to deal with it themselves," explains Laskowske. "We don't have to be that big macho person anymore - you can talk to somebody."
Captain Bart Berven says it's important for firefighters to find a stress-managing activity that works for them. He enjoys golfing with a Rochester firefighter to get some exercise, relieve stress, and discuss what is on their minds after an emotionally-taxing call.
After every call, the Albert Lea Fire Department sits down together to talk about it. After particularly hard situations, they have post-incident stress de-briefings . "We sit and talk about what happened. We try to identify why it happened, that it wasn't our fault, that we didn't cause it."
Click here for the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance website. There, you can find a suicide self-screening test and other mental health resources for firefighters.