Posted on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at 2:16 pm
It’s a chilling reality: First responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. According to a study by the Ruderman Foundation, there were at least 103 firefighter suicides in 2017 in contrast to the 93 line-of-duty deaths that same year.
First responders across the country have taken note, and the Madison Fire Department is setting out to buck the trend.
A new Peer Support Initiative, endorsed by Madison Fire Department Administration and Fire Fighters Local 311, was established in the summer of 2018 to provide a confidential, supportive resource for first responders coping after a critical incident or dealing with personal or professional stress.
Twelve active and retired MFD personnel have signed on as Peer Support Members. After receiving specialized training provided by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the City of Madison Employee Assistance Program, these individuals are available to lend an ear— and a helping hand— to their colleagues in need.
Peer Support Members act as facilitators connecting individuals to the appropriate experts. They do not act as therapists or counselors.
Any member of the Madison Fire Department, past or present, can seek the assistance of the Peer Support Initiative. Use of the program is completely voluntary.
Meet the members of MFD’s Peer Support Initiative!
Firefighter/Paramedic, EMS Training Officer
With MFD Since: September 2012
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: Suicides, depression, and substance abuse are all very common in the fire and police services, as are smaller things like repetitive call demands, lack of sleep, and work-related stress affecting relationships at home. Building a team and getting a group of people together to make our peers feel more comfortable talking about these issues is important. They may not feel comfortable going to someone in a position of authority, like a Lieutenant or Chief, or to an Employee Assistance Program, where they may never have met the person they're talking to. It's important to have a peer support team so we can help make the connection between the people who are suffering and the amazing resources available. Overall, mental wellbeing needs to be the focus of our people in all ranks.
Lieutenant, Fire Station 8
With the MFD since: 1994
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: It's only in the past few years I've learned the importance of being able to "vent." I like analogies: Imagine my feelings as a huge beach ball. I would stuff all my feelings in this beach ball and keep them stuffed inside me. Keeping my feelings stuffed inside was like trying to keep a huge beach ball under water. The deeper I tried to stuff this beach ball under water, the harder it got. Eventually you lose control, and the beach ball comes erupting to the surface. Feelings were the same way. Often they would eventually surface, sometimes manifest themselves, and often not come out constructively. I've learned that I need to "vent" this beach ball and deflate it. Often, simply talking to someone helps me vent these feelings. I wanted to join Peer Support in case someone needed to vent and they had nowhere to turn.
This is a program to take care of our own. It was developed by our members for our members. It's one more step to help our members with the "pressures" of life.
Peer Support Program Coordinator; Lieutenant, Fire Station 5
With the MFD since: 1999
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: Behavioral health is an important component of everyone's life. We all have "issues" at some point. We, or the people close to us, are all either currently in a crisis, just getting out of a crisis, or about to enter one. The Peer Support Team is another tool available for the MFD, our families, and retirees to ensure we all stay healthy, in all ways. It's another option for people to reach out for assistance from someone who may understand a little better. It also helps to normalize mental health issues—talk about it and realize you're not alone when it comes to family, relationship, and personal challenges.
Apparatus Engineer, Fire Station 5
With the MFD since: October 10, 1998
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: I was most surprised to hear about the suicide rate among firefighters. We got into this career to help the public; now we need to help each other. We see people on their worst day, and we need to be there for them. At the same time, we have all the stresses everyone else has in their regular life. Then we have our job on top of that. It takes a toll. We have a lot of great resources in our city, and the Peer Support Initiative connects us to those resources.
Retired Apparatus Engineer
With the MFD for 28 years
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: I believe the Peer Support Initiative will fill a void that has not been fully addressed. As first responders are exposed to more and more incidents, the likelihood of personal problems arising is a growing problem. Having a team or program in place to support our own and their families is a step in the right direction. Being offered a chance to give back in retirement is an honor.
Community Education Officer
With the MFD Since: June 1990
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: I've been with the department for 28 years now, so I've gotten to know the firefighters, their families, and to watch their kids grow up. I also know the retirees. The crews want to sit down at the kitchen table and discuss the bad calls among themselves. They're more comfortable sharing their experiences with one another than trying to relate them to someone from the outside who may not relate to the fire service and what they go through. What's nice about the Peer Support Initiative is we don't counsel, we refer. I like that. I don't want anyone to feel alone, because they're not. There are many people going through the same thing, and I empathize with them. When people feel they have to figure things out themselves, the problems get worse and they pile up. I'm not a professional, but I can help you get some help.
Firefighter/Paramedic, Fire Station 4
With the MFD since: 1993
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: We need to take care of our own people as an organization, and this is a great avenue to do that. By making us more mentally healthy, we're better equipped to do our jobs, and it helps us bond further. We're truly a family, and we take care of our family. The Firefighter/Paramedic mortality rate is horrifying, and it's been proven that departments with this program in place have fewer mental health issues than those that do not. We gotta take care of our own peeps!
Firefighter, Fire Station 7
With the MFD since: 2008
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: Having a father that is a funeral director and former County Coroner, the hardest calls to go through with family and friends are those of suicide. Most of those deaths could have been prevented with early diffusion and help. What firefighters and police see and experience on a day-to-day basis is not normal, and those calls can have a snowball effect that cause mental instability over a period of years. In 2003, the Madison Fire Department went on 20,287 calls for service. Last year we went on 31,002 calls for service. This increase in numbers means members are potentially seeing more high-trauma call volumes in addition to experiencing sleep deprivation. While some mental health struggles may require professional help, others may diffuse simply by talking over a cup of coffee. As Chief Dan DeGryse from the Chicago Fire Department said at his FDIC keynote speech, “In an effort to stay connected, reach out to your co-worker, your friend, your spouse, your son, daughter, Mom or Dad, or someone here while you are at FDIC. Ask them the simple, yet powerful, question, ‘How are you doing?’’’
With the MFD for 25 years
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: With the number of Firefighters/EMS providers committing suicide starting to rival line of duty deaths, it's time we aggressively face this challenge like we've tried to increase firefighter safety on the fire ground.
Firefighter/Paramedic, Fire Station 5
With the MFD Since: 2012
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: I believe that the Peer Support Initiative is important due to the nature of our job and work schedule. They inherently come with various stressors that can build over time and lead to issues that can impact both work and home life. Simply put, the Peer Support Initiative is just people helping people. We take care of each other and our families because we are all in this profession and life together. In this profession, we help the public every day, and with this initiative we can do more to help each other every day.
Firefighter, Fire Station 6
With the MFD since: October 19, 2009
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: During my time in the Marine Corps I gained a unique perspective in regards to mental health issues and saw first-hand how vital a strong support network would be. In our profession we are becoming increasingly aware of the struggles of PTSD and burnout. I think it's crucial to be involved at the peer level in order to build and maintain the camaraderie essential for creating a safe place for us all to share our struggles, hardships, and coping mechanisms. In doing so, I think we will be stronger and better equipped as a department to do our jobs effectively and safely.
With MFD for 27 years
Why they’re a Peer Support Member: I'm interested in peer support for several reasons: To maintain a connection with the MFD, which is an important part of my life; I want to be able to help someone if I can; I have an understanding of some of the stressors that come with the job; and I've been helped by members, and I'd like to return the favor to others, whether they're active or retired.
- Meet Firefighter Chelsea Utzerath
- Meet Firefighter Heather Seeber
- Meet Firefighter Devin Rogers
- Meet Firefighter Jessie Bowden
- Meet Firefighter Seth Dahmen
- Meet Firefighter Josh Popanz
- Meet Firefighter Ryan Liss
- Meet Firefighter Lexi Wagner
- Meet Firefighter Julie Griessmeyer
- Meet Firefighter Jay Watson
- Meet Recruit Class 8!
- Rick Mulhern, Leader In Technical Rescue and Peer Support, Retires From MFD
- Burn Awareness Week: About UW Hospital's Burn Center
- Burn Awareness Week: Identifying and Treating Burns
- Burn Awareness Week: Sunburn and Frostbite
- Burn Awareness Week: Home Oxygen Safety
- Burn Awareness Week: Preventing Cooking-Related Scalds and Burns
- Meet Firefighter Brennan Boughton
- Meet Firefighter Mike Lothe
- Meet Firefighter Mitch Hanson
- Meet Firefighter Sam Coenen
- Meet Firefighter Marshall Angst
- Meet Firefighter Brandon Courts
- Meet Firefighter Grahm Yahn
- Meet Firefighter Tom Shannon
- Meet Firefighter Joe Parrillo
- Meet Firefighter Ryan Dostalek
- MFD Introduces Recruit Class 7!
- MFD's Community Education Division Teaches Kids To BE AWARE
- LEARN Two Ways Out Of Every Room
- LISTEN For The Sound Of The Smoke Alarm
- LOOK: Fire Hazards May Lurk In Your Home
- First Annual Richard Garner Memorial Ride Raises Over $14,000 For Scholarship Fund
- Meet Lieutenant Zak Smith
- Meet Lieutenant Eric Mills
- We Send Our Condolences To Sun Prairie Today
- Meet Lieutenant Liza Tatar
- Meet Lieutenant David Crossen II
- Four New Lieutenants Assume Position At Area Fire Stations
- National EMS Memorial Bike Ride Pays A Visit To Station 4
- Engine 10 Helps Reunite Mama Duck With Four Stranded Ducklings
- Home Fire Sprinklers: A Small Investment That Could Save Your Life
- New Aerial Platform Ladder Truck Hits The Road On Madison's West Side
- Show Us Your Smarts: Take the Home Fire Sprinkler Quiz!
- Fire Sprinkler Protection: See the Difference!
- Hiding In Plain Sight: Choosing Concealed Fire Sprinklers
- The Truth About Home Fire Sprinklers
- Seconds Matters: How Home Fire Sprinklers Save Lives
- Meet Firefighter Michael Samosky
- Meet Firefighter Nickolas George
- Meet Firefighter Desmond Leidich
- Meet Firefighter Kyle Kampmeier
- Meet Firefighter Jonathan Clinkscale
- Meet Firefighter John Clooten
- Meet Firefighter McKinnan Stamschror
- Meet Firefighter Ryan Raisbeck
- Meet Firefighter Daniel Ramirez
- Meet Firefighter Brett Bower
- Meet Firefighter Bryce Powell
- Meet Firefighter Daniel Congdon
- Meet Firefighter Larry Moen
- Meet Firefighter Charles Campbell
- Meet Firefighter Casey Endres
- Meet Firefighter Benjamin Nevarez
- Recruit Class 6 Reports For Duty
- New Solar Panels Installed At Fire Station 12
- Fire Prevention Week: Fire Prevention Quiz
- Fire Prevention Week: Easy-To-See House Numbers Help Us Find You Faster!
- Fire Prevention Week: Practice Your Escape Plan!
- Fire Prevention Week: How To Make A Home Fire Escape Plan
- Fire Prevention Week: Every Second Counts -- Know 2 Ways Out!
- Now Accepting Firefighter Applications!
- CampHERO for Women Coming Up Saturday!
- A 'Thank You' Note To Our Partners On Stratton Way
- Madison Launches 'PulsePoint Verified Responder' Pilot Program
- Meet Lieutenant Jeffery Vogen
- Meet Lieutenant Chris Hammes
- Meet Lieutenant Wes Ecker
- Meet Lieutenant Chris Carbon
- Meet Lieutenant Linnea Anderson
- Meet Lieutenant Dan Williams
- MFD Introduces Six New Lieutenants!
- Upcoming Community Events!
- ER Docs Dive Into Firefighting During 'Doc Ops Day'
- MFD Lends Helping Hand At Gilbert Brown Football Camp
- Special Delivery: “Beltline Jax” Makes A Grand Entrance
- New Lease On Life: Oregon Man Reconnects With Crew That Helped Save Him
- 235 New Smoke Alarms Move Into Sherman Terrace!
- Captain Todd Steyer Wraps Up A Fulfilling 30-Year Career With MFD
- Calling All Volunteers! CampHERO Kicks Off Its 6th Season
- EMS Q&A: Where can I learn CPR?
- EMS Q&A: Did you know MFD paramedics are also firefighters?
- EMS Q&A: What should I expect after calling for an ambulance?
- EMS Q&A: What’s the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic? How many paramedics are on duty?
- EMS Q&A: Why does a fire truck come when I call for an ambulance?
- Meet Firefighter Maj-Britt Williams
- Meet Firefighter Adam Thimmig
- Meet Firefighter Ruth Savard
- Meet Firefighter Mike Reisman
- Meet Firefighter Trent Meicher
- Meet Firefighter Jonathon McCray
- Meet Firefighter Adam Lesser
- Meet Firefighter Patrick Johnson
- Meet Firefighter Kyle Homan
- Meet Firefighter Joe Gangler
- Meet Firefighter Justin Fehrenbach
- Meet Firefighter Matthew Dykstra
- Meet Firefighter Brandon Douglas
- Meet Firefighter Tamara Dinkel
- Meet Firefighter Marta Darrow
- Meet Firefighter Davy Calkins
- Meet Firefighter Ryan Beckwith
- MFD Introduces 18 New Firefighters!
- A Greener Firehouse: How Fire Station 12 LEEDs the Way
- Meet AE Brad Vogen
- Meet AE Vince Soto
- Meet AE Chad Powell
- Meet AE Daniel Pazurek
- Meet AE Todd Mahoney
- Meet Apparatus Engineer Cole Christenson
- Meet AE Derek Brown
- New Apparatus Engineers Now Serving In Your Neighborhood!
- Dane County EMS Banquet Honors Survivors, Responders Involved In Cardiac Saves
- On This Day In History: The First 911 Call Is Placed In 1968
- PHOTOS: Getting Up Close With The Lake Rescue Team
- Sable Flames "Second Alarm" Benefit Enters Its 24th Year
- Madison's Iranian Community Comes Together To Honor Firefighters
- Building Connections, Inspiring Kids: Engine 12 At Olson Elementary School
- Welcome Home: Cooper's Hawk Returns To Willy Street
- The Results Are In: 91 Donations Collected During the “Never Forget” Blood Drive
- Meet AE Ethan Dade
- Meet AE Wade Raddatz
- Meet AE Lance Radock
- Meet AE Jacob Conner
- Meet AE Dan Smith
- Meet AE Kevin Hembrook
- National Preparedness Month: Special Needs Disaster Planning
- Meet AE Tom Winter
- Meet AE Lori Karst
- MFD Introduces Eight New Apparatus Engineers
- Reflections On This 15th Anniversary Of 9/11
- Generous Grant Brings New "Jaws Of Life" Equipment To Ladder 6
- National Preparedness Month: Creating Communication and Evacuation Plans
- National Preparedness Month: Don't Wait. Communicate.
- Project SOAR and the MFD
- “Doc Ops Day” Gives ER Docs A Taste Of Firefighter Life
- Two Years After Accident, Family And First Responders Celebrate 'A Miracle'
- Madison Fire Aims To Keep Injuries Well Under Par At PGA Championships
- “It’s Been A Great Ride," Says Retiring Driver John Lucille
- A Thank-You Gift For All To Enjoy
- “Friday Nights At the Y” Returns In 2016
- Meet Lt. Lisa Becher
- Meet Lt. Derek Teff
- Meet Lt. Casey Preimesberger
- Resources For Candidates Preparing For the Physical Ability Test
- Meet Lt. Sue Juedes
- Meet Lt. Ted Higgins
- Meet Lt. Matthew Mialik
- Meet Lt. Michael McCartney
- MFD Introduces Seven New Lieutenants
- Inside The Galaxie: Making Madison's Newest High Rise Safer For All
- Edgewood Students Donate Stuffed Animals For Kids Experiencing Trauma
- Apparatus Engineer "Recon Bob" Says Goodbye After 25 Years Of Service
- New Boat Enhances MFD Lake Rescue Capabilities
- With Gratitude, Division Chief Ron Schwenn Bids Farewell To the MFD
- New Training Technology Aims to Offer Full Immersion, Minus the Risks
- In the Midst Of Transitions, Our Crews Don't Miss A Beat
- Finance Manager Rita Johnson Retires After 44 Years With the City
- Farewell to West District Captain Tom Reiter
- Meet Firefighter Caluster Buie
- Meet Firefighter Steven Foulks
- Meet Firefighter Richard Miyagawa
- Meet Firefighter Joshua Balli
- Meet Firefighter Matthew Boyle
- Meet Firefighter Oscar Castillo
- Meet Firefighter David Bartkowiak
- Meet Firefighter Christopher Staveness
- Meet Firefighter Michael Guerten
- Meet Firefighter Marcus Bobholz
- Meet Firefighter Joshua Ramsey
- Meet Firefighter Michael Olson
- Meet Firefighter Eric Popovich
- Meet Firefighter Paul Schecklman
- Meet Firefighter Brian Tremain
- Meet Firefighter Cameron Gasaway
- Meet Firefighter Vaughn Brockel
- Why We Do What We Do: Remembering the Our Lady of the Angels Fire
- Meet Firefighter Brian Bieganski
- Farewell To AASPIRE Intern Casey Tubbs
- Meet Lt. Tim Hagen
- Meet Lt. Jeff Mast
- Meet Lt. Matt Thomas
- Meet Lt. AJ Greenlee
- Meet Lt. Chris Homman
- Join The Team Current News
- MFD Introduces Five New Lieutenants
- Saving Santa at Station 3
- MFD Mailbag: Kudos For the Crew of Engine 7A
- Madison Fire Recruit Class 4 Begins
- MFD Begins Serving Towns of Blooming Grove, Burke Today
- The Madison Fire Department Prepares For Inaugural "Shake the Lake" Event
- The Heavy Urban Rescue Team Practices Life-Saving Skills
- Safety Saturday 2015: A Day In Photos
- Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Boss Lift
- Firefighter Fun Day 2015 is Saturday, August 8
- Retired Firefighter Tim Healy Inducted Into Madison Sports Hall Of Fame
- Firefighter Ty Stebbins Sworn In
Emergency Medical Services
- A Day In The Life Of A Madison Firefighter
- Alix Olson Award
- Awards & Recognition
- Battle Of the Badges
- Black History Month
- Burn Awareness Week
- Community Outreach
- Dane County Public Safety Communications
- Fire Academy
- Fire Prevention Division
- fire prevention month
- Fire Prevention Week
- Fire Safety School Tours
- Fire Stations
- Firefighter Fun Day
- Friday Nights at the Y
- Hazmat Team
- Heavy Urban Rescue Team
- Hiring & Promotions
- Home Fire Sprinklers
- Join the Team
- Lake Rescue Team
- Madison Fire EMS
- Meet the MFD
- MFD Behind the Scenes
- MFD Mailbag
- MFD Prevention Division
- National Preparedness Month
- Our Lady Of the Angels
- public health
- Public Safety
- Sable Flames
- Safety Town
- Shake the Lake
- The American Center
- Training & Professional Development
- UW Health
- Wanda Fullmore Youth Internship Program
- Winter Safety