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.
Courses below are free and available to anyone, regardless of IAFF membership status or participation in a Peer Support Training.
IAFF Online Behavioral Health Awareness
This is a two-hour, self-paced online course that provides an overview of common behavioral health problems that impact fire service personnel.
Note: IAFF Peer Fitness Trainers (PFTs) can acquire 0.3 continuing education credits (CECs) for completing this course. Relevant information will become available upon completion.
Register for the Behavioral Health Awareness course.
Helping Members in Recovery
This is a two-hour, self-paced online course for fire service personnel who want to support a colleague who is engaged in or has recently completed treatment for a mental health or substance use disorder. The course provides a comprehensive overview of common behavioral health problems in the fire service, levels of behavioral health treatment, specific strategies to support a member in their recovery journey, and best practices for affiliate leaders to create a work environment that fosters recovery. See the course flyer for more information.
Register for the Helping Members in Recovery course.
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.
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.
Edgewood Health Network (EHN) is a leading provider of private behavioural health treatment services in Canada, offering a network of recovery centres that spans coast to coast. EHN address a wide range of treatment needs, from outpatient therapy to short-term detox, and residential treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, including specialized treatment for military and first responders.
What makes the IAFF/EHN partnership unique?
This exclusive agreement was developed in collaboration between EHN Canada and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). The IAFF behavioral health team is working in close collaboration with the EHN executive and clinical leadership team to ensure Canadian IAFF members have access to high-quality, evidence-based behavioural healthcare. EHN offers an admissions/inquiry line dedicated exclusively to IAFF members (1-888-301-7876). An IAFF member or loved one can call this number directly to learn more about EHN treatment options.
The Ferguson Building, which houses the Military, Veterans, and First Responders (MVFR) Program
What is the Military, Veteran, and First Responders (MVFR) Program?
Canadian IAFF members seeking trauma-focused treatment will have priority access to EHN’s Military, Veteran, and First Responders (MVFR) program. This residential treatment program is designed to treat occupational trauma with and without co-occurring addiction, while addressing the unique clinical and social needs of fire service members. Treatment, dining, and living quarters are exclusive to military and first responder clients. The MVFR trauma-focused program is currently available at four locations:
Understanding the Fire Service for Mental Health Clinicians
This online, self-paced training is intended for behavioral health clinicians who are interested in working with fire service personnel in a clinical setting. Other healthcare providers may also benefit from this training. This course will provide clinicians a therapeutic foundation for working with fire fighters, by deepening their understanding of the fire fighting occupation and the fire service community. The National Board of Social Work (NASW) has approved this course 1.5 hours of continuing education. To register for the course, please visit the course homepage. To access the course flyer, click here.
Treating Fire Fighters in Behavioral Health Settings
This is a two-day, in-person training designed for mental health clinicians to build best practices when treating professional fire fighters. Clinicians will spend day one in a traditional classroom environment, followed by a second day of live fireground training, intended to provide direct exposure to the physical and psychological challenges of the occupation. Students who complete this training will have access to the monthly IAFF Clinician Consultation Group and can be listed in the IAFF Preferred Clinician Directory.
Live beta testing for this training was completed in fall 2022 with approximately 50 clinicians (view the flyer for the 2022 training here). The training is currently under final revision with delivery expected in spring 2023. Sign up here to be notified of training availability and dates.
Video Resources for Clinicians
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. This webinar is delivered in collaboration with the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery.
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. This webinar is delivered in collaboration with the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery.
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. This workshop is intended for a general fire service audience, but is also recommend for clinicians who are interested in working with fire fighters.
IAFF Online Recovery Meetings are an essential form of recovery support for hundreds of IAFF members and fire service personnel living in addiction or recovery. These peer-led meetings embrace multiple pathways to recovery, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), SMART recovery, harm reduction and medication assisted treatment
Benefits of an Online Recovery Meeting:
Attend from the privacy of your home, or anywhere with an internet connection
Participate via video or audio only — you decide!
No need to provide any identifying information
Form lasting recovery connections with IAFF members across North America
Meeting Times and Links
IAFF Online Recovery Meetings occur every Sunday and Friday. No pre-registration needed. The IAFF does not collect any data on participants. Just click the meeting link to attend:
To receive a weekly meeting reminder to join IAFF Online Recovery Meetings, sign up here. If you are in recovery from addiction and interested in serving as a meeting host, please contact the IAFF Behavioral Health team at [email protected].
Promote Online Meetings
Use our IAFF-branded graphic below to promote our online recovery meetings to your members on social media or in the firehouse.
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.
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.
Approaching a Member in Need In this webinar training, best practices will be explored to approach a co-worker, friend, or loved one facing behavioral health challenges. Delivered by Molly Jones, LSW and IAFF Peer Support Instructor Jeff Campbell.
Conflict Resolution and Intervention for Peers This presentation will focus on managing conflict between members, how to identify increased anger and irritability, and best practices for peer teams to establish mutual aid with neighboring agencies. Delivered by Molly Jones, LSW and IAFF Peer Support Instructor Scott Ross.
IAFF/ NBC Member Behavioral Health Survey This video features the results of a survey conducted by the IAFF in collaboration with NBC, to explore member behavioral health issues, problems, and concerns. Nearly 7,000 IAFF members responded.
Trauma in the Fire Service This webinar will take a comprehensive look at occupational trauma, pos-traumatic stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder in the fire service. Evidence based treatment options and the role of peer support in trauma recovery will be addressed.
Opioid Addiction and Treatment: One Firefighter’s Journey The webinar will explore will provide a fresh perspective on the opioid epidemic in the COVID-19 era, by exploring opioid addiction as a disease, best practices in treatment, and unique treatment considerations for fire service personnel coping with this problem. Delivered by Lauren Kosc, LCPC and Lt. Chris Goggin.
Substance Abuse and Addiction in the Fire Service This webinar will address substance use disorders experienced among fire fighters, paramedics and dispatchers. Addiction signs and symptoms and recovery resources will be explored. Delivered by Molly Jones, LSW and Peer Support Instructor Jeff Gauthier.
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.