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. This is a two-hour, self-paced online course and 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.

Register for the Behavioral Health Awareness 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.

Important:
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.

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.  To register for this course, please visit the IAFF Online Learning Center Course Catalog and search for “Understanding the Fire Service for Mental Health Clinicians”.
Coming Soon: Expected Delivery Fall 2021

Treating Fire Fighters in Behavioral Health Settings

This is an in-person training intended to build best practices when working with fire fighters in a clinical behavioral health setting, in addition to gaining direct exposure to the daily operations of a fire fighter through live simulated training.
Coming Soon: Expected Delivery Fall 2022

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:

If you can’t attend Sunday or Friday, check out a weekly small group meeting hosted by Toronto Local 3888:

Stay in Touch

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.

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.
  • 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 and Resiliency

  • 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.
  • 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.

Addiction

  • 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

  • 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.

Other Topics

Behavioral Health Committee

Mike Carter, Chair 

Patrick J. Morrison, Staff Advisor

District 01
NJ, NY
L0854 New York Uniformed Fire Officers Association
Leto, Frank
[email protected]
(917) 468-5073


District 02
IA, KS, MO, NE
L0042 Kansas City
Rose, Eric
[email protected]
(816) 605-5083


District 03
CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT
L0718 Boston
Ostiguy, William
[email protected]
(617) 999-9435


District 04
DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV
L2068 Fairfax County Prof. Fire Fighters and Paramedics
Morrison, Gerard
[email protected]
(703) 217-9780


District 05
MN, ND, SD, WI
L0215 Milwaukee
Gauthier, Jeffrey
[email protected]
(414) 861-5039


District 06
AB, BC, NT, SK, YT
Local 1782 Coquitlam
Farina, Steven
[email protected]
(604) 968-2372


District 07
AK, ID, MT, WA
L1747 Kent
Gallup, John
[email protected]
(253) 370-3080


District 08
IL, IN, KY, MI, OH
L0002 Chicago
DeGryse, Daniel
[email protected]
(773) 875-3560


District 09
CO, NV, OR, UT, WY
L2148 Logan
Thompson, Nathan
[email protected]
(435) 757-1574


District 10
AZ, CA, HI, NM, GUAM
L0798 San Francisco
Engler, Stephen
[email protected]
(415) 246-9204


District 11
OK, TX, CANAL ZONE
L3453 Allen
Painkin, Jeremy
[email protected]
(239) 560-8869


District 12
FL, GA, NC, SC, CARRIBEAN AREA
L1403 Metropolitan Dade County Assoc. of Fire Fighters
Steele, Michelle
[email protected]
(305) 904-4610


District 13
MB, ON
L3888 Toronto Professional Fire Fighters
Doherty, Hugh
[email protected]
(416) 433-0446


District 14
AL, AR, LA, MS, TN
L0557 Baton Rouge
Adams, Daniel
[email protected]
(225) 938-7427


District 15
NB, NL, NS, PE, QC
L1075 St. John’s
Smith, Craig
[email protected]
(709) 689-5624


District 16
Federal District
F0273 Fort Belvoir
Lang, Jonathan
[email protected]
(703) 307-4026


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.