I would like to let you know about the amazing work that Sarah Gaer of the Riverside Trauma Center has been doing lately with fire departments. While research is still being done to determine if firefighters are inherently at greater risk for suicide, it is important to educate them as they meet the highest risk demographics as they are often male, ages 34-54, compounded by their exposure not only to trauma but also to suicide. Since firefighters are gatekeepers in the community and regularly deal with individuals who may be experiencing a trigger event such as a car crash, fire or loss of a loved one, they are also in a position to be helpful to others. The goal of these trainings is to increase their ability to recognize warning signs of suicide in themselves, their colleagues and those they serve, as well as to improve their confidence in talking to people about suicide prevention.
Sarah has trained seven fire departments throughout Massachusetts including large departments in Springfield and Worcester. She is working with a model of suicide prevention called Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR). With Springfield as her pilot program she completed 28 different trainings with groups of between two and twenty firefighters. As a Master Trainer for the QPR Institute, Sarah also “trains the trainer” and has taught 40 First Responders to be QPR trainers, greatly increasing the potential number of educated firefighters in the state.
The trainings are a great success. In Springfield, pre-training, 78% of firefighters agreed with the statement, “I feel competent to recognize the warning signs of suicide” and post-training 98% of firefighters agreed. Also pre-training, 69% of firefighters agreed with the statement, “I feel confident that I can question a person about suicidal thoughts” and post-training 98% of firefighters agreed.
What great work! Sarah will also be presenting on her efforts at the International Association for Suicide Prevention conference in Montreal in June.
~Scott M. Bock, President/CEO