Behavioral Health and Wellness in the Fire Service

There is growing concern about behavioral health issues and the significant impact on wellness. The stresses faced by fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs throughout the course of their careers – incidents involving children, violence, inherent dangers of firefighting and other potentially traumatic events – can have a cumulative impact on mental health and well-being.

The IAFF​ continues to develop resources that educate and support members on behavioral health concerns. Check back often for updated information on behavioral health programs and resources.

The IAFF Online Behavioral Health Awareness course is a free introductory course that provides an overview of common behavioral health problems that impact fire service personnel. The course is available to anyone, regardless of IAFF membership or participation in a Peer Support Training.

IAFF Peer Fitness Trainers (PFTs) can acquire 0.3 continuing education credits (CECs) for completing this course. Relevant information will become available upon completion.

To register for the Behavioral Health Awareness course, visit the IAFF Online Learning Center Course Catalog.

The stresses faced by fire service members throughout the course of their careers – incidents involving children, violence, inherent dangers of firefighting and other potentially traumatic events – can have a cumulative impact on mental health and well-being.

Peer support programs have been demonstrated to be an effective method for providing support to occupational groups, including fire fighters.

It may be possible to obtain a grant through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program to fund the IAFF Peer Support Training.

For more information, log in to the IAFF website, visit the Grants Administration page and review the Grant Application Guidance for the IAFF Peer Support Training.

Despite increased awareness of behavioral health problems in the fire service, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, burnout and suicide continue to plague our ranks.

Building on the initial success of the IAFF Peer Support Training program, the IAFF Resiliency Training is the next behavioral health training to be offered by the IAFF.

This training is a one-day, eight-hour, in-person training focused on building individual and organizational resilience in the fire service.

Important: It may be possible to obtain a grant through the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) grant program to fund IAFF Resiliency Training.

For more information, visit Grants Administration and review the grant application guidance for IAFF Resiliency Training.

The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery is a one-of-a-kind treatment facility specializing in behavioral health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health challenges exclusively for professional fire fighters, paramedics and dispatchers.

Partnering with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), a leader in behavioral healthcare management, the IAFF Center of Excellence is staffed by a highly experienced and specialized team familiar with the unique needs of our members and the fire service culture. Located outside Washington, DC, in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, the Center opened March 5, 2017.

Learn more about the Center and the resources available to IAFF members.

For an overview of the treatment program offered at the Center, see the IAFF Center of Excellence Clinical Program Guide.

In addition, the IAFF has created a toolkit designed to provide affiliate leaders with information and resources to ensure IAFF members have access to the Center of Excellence.

Attending Online Meetings

You do not need to sign up or register in advance. Simply click on the Join Meeting link below and enter the meeting password. Meeting links and passwords may change occasionally.

If you are interested in receiving updates and reminders about IAFF online recovery meetings, sign up here.

IAFF Online Meeting Schedule

Important: Meeting days/times/links are subject to changes. Please bookmark this page and refer back to it for each meeting.

Speaker Meeting:

Small Group Meetings:

Promote Online Meetings

Use the IAFF-branded graphics below to promote our online recovery meetings to your members on social media or in the firehouse.

Online Meeting Basics

IAFF online recovery meetings are for members coping with or in recovery from an alcohol or substance use problem.

This peer-led meeting is intended to provide a supportive space for individuals to share their experience, strength and hope with other brothers and sisters interested in recovery.

Online recovery meetings are an inclusive space that embrace multiple pathways to recovery, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), SMART recovery, harm reduction and medication assisted treatment.

Peer connection plays an essential role in supporting recovery from addiction and overall behavioral health. Online meetings provide an alternative to in-person meetings and offer support, accountability and connection to other members who want to live without alcohol or drugs.

Meetings are hosted through an external, web-based platform. You can choose to participate with video or audio only and do not need to provide any identifying information to participate in the meeting. We are not monitoring or tracking who participates in the meeting.

Online recovery meetings are 60 minutes and begin with a review of ground rules. Meetings are delivered in two formats:

  • Speaker Meetings focus on the recovery testimonial of one to three speakers who have agreed to share their story. Speaker meetings are not an opportunity for individual participation and are designed for larger groups.
  • Small Group Meetings begin with a brief discussion on a specific theme, then individual participants have a time-limited opportunity to share how they relate to the theme or to check in with the group. Small group meetings are designed for 25-50 participants.

To address the ongoing opioid problem, the IAFF – with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – has launched an online series to provide an in-depth understanding of opioid epidemic impacting the United States and Canada. This series is designed for fire service personnel and civilians. Each segment includes at least one video and corresponding podcast to provide more in-depth discussion and commentary.

Topics include:

  1. Opioid Use Disorder: A Disease
  2. Treating Opioid Addiction
  3. Treatment Considerations for Fire Fighters
  4. Responsible Approaches to Pain Management
  5. Stories of Recovery From Opioid Addiction
  6. Addressing Substance Use in Your Department
  7. Situational Awareness When Responding to Opioid Incidents
  8. Managing Exposure Risks
  9. Community Approaches to the Opioid Crisis
  10. Managing Compassion Fatigue

Click here to access the series.

Peer Support

  • IAFF Peer Support and Program Development
    This 1.5-hour webinar is an introduction to the IAFF Peer Support Training program and the 10-step model for developing a peer support program.
  • Understanding Peer Support in the Fire Service
    This 1.5-hour webinar is intended for clinicians and fire service personnel who want a deeper understanding of peer support in the fire service and the role of a clinician on a peer support team.
  • Addressing PTSD Through Peer Support
    This two-hour presentation from the 2017 Vincent J. Bollon Affiliate Leadership Training Summit explores the origins of the IAFF Peer Support Training with the help of two IAFF affiliates: Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) Local 854 and Phoenix Local 493.

Trauma and Resiliency

  • Trauma in the Fire Service
    This 1.5-hour webinar explores best practices for clinicians interested in working with fire service personnel coping with post-traumatic stress or PTSD. Fire service personal will learn more about what to look for in a clinician.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Fire Service
    This two-hour presentation from the 2015 Vincent J. Bollon Affiliate Leadership Training Summit explores post-traumatic stress disorder in the fire service from the perspective of a subject matter expert and two IAFF affiliates.
  • Resiliency Training Pre-Course Video Series
    This series includes an overview of five critical components of organizational resiliency that are covered in the IAFF Resiliency Training.


  • Suicide and Suicide Prevention in the Fire Service
    This 1.5-hour presentation from the 2019 Redmond Symposium/Barbera EMS Conference explores suicide postvention, suicide prevention strategies, evidence-based treatments for suicide, resources for suicide loss and the IAFF’s efforts to understand and address suicide.

IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery

For more information, contact [email protected]

International Association of Fire Fighters
Attn: Health and Safety Department
1750 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006-5395

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) connects callers to local crisis centers and has information on suicide prevention.