Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance

 

Jeff Dill

 ~ a retired Fire Captain and also a Counselor, he founded the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, whose mission is to raise awareness of mental health issues affecting firefighters and EMTs in an effort to decrease the growing number of suicides among them. Through outreach and education, FFBHA aims to better educate counselors and chaplains as to the different culture of the Fire service as well as provide firefighters and EMTs with training and workshops to prepare them for life before, during and after Service.

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For 26 years a firefighter, Jeff began as a volunteer and then went career in 1995.  FFBHA was founded after Hurricane Katrina – when firefighters from Palatine Rural Protection Fire district came back from rendering assistance, they wanted to see their EAP counselors to discuss the emotional impact of what they had experienced in New Orleans.  Unfortunately, the feedback on their experiences was that the counselors didn’t understand the firefighter culture.  

Jeff wanted to find a way to change that.  He went back for his Masters in counseling and in 2009 founded Counseling Service for FireFighters with the aim of educating his brothers and sisters on depression and anxiety.  But in 2010, he started getting calls from Departments around the country asking if he knew anything about firefighter suicides.  At the time, Jeff didn’t but soon realized, when he tried to collect the data, that no one was keeping records on this topic.  
FFBHA is a 501c3 and is the only service in the U.S. that tracks and validates data on suicides among firefighters and EMTs.  

Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance   ffbha.org

On the day of the interview less than 3 weeks ago, there were 92 suicides reported for 2015. Today, the 10th of November, this number has increased to 99. With estimates of a 30% reporting rate among those who know about FFBHA, the actual number of firefighters suffering from behavioral health issues is projected as being much higher.   

There appears to be insufficient training to raise the awareness of these men and women to understand how what they are going to see and experience on the job can affect them emotionally. 
The work of the FFBHA helps to spread the word about the factors that can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions, but it as a way of also reducing the number of addictions, untreated depression and anxiety through education and awareness.  

WORKSHOP THEMES
1. be direct when talking to each other
2. challenge with compassion - if you see or hear something
3. do an internal size-up of whats happening in your life

Jeff and his crew train the fire fighters to take a personal inventory of themselves to understand how their circumstances are affecting them, and how these situations have changed since the days of the structure fires alone.

WORKSHOP PROGRAMS
* Ambassador Program:
Enroll firefighters and counselors into FFBHA protocol to provide greater reach nationally

* Saving Those Who save others
In depth training in firefighter and ems suicide awareness and prevention,including warning signs specific to the fire service
Communication and Role-play exercises to prepare for direct communication in times of need

* A firefighter's life
A program for chaplains and counselors wanting to work with fire and EMS personnel to understand the culture. Participants get to gear up and practice a Search and Rescue exercise to better understand the rigors of the job.

* Saving those who save others family edition
Recognize how lifestyle is affecting families and children

* Behavioral health program development class
Essential elements needed in the creation of behavioral health program tailored to Fire and EMS

* Saying Goodbye and Emotional Detachment:
  a workshop for those entering retirement from the fire service, as perceived loss of identity following separation is problematic.

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 FFBHA is in the process of updating their website .
The new site will provide more resources of trained counselors for available states. In the meantime, you can find the contact details of current FFBHA ambassadors who may be closer to you  at ffbha.org
 
  - -
 
 
 5 Bugles 4 Change
To let people know that those members who sign up are dedicated to making changes in behavioral health in their organizations. Fire Chiefs, training officers, chaplains and even firefighters who sign up receive a certificate to this effect.
 
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The National Fallen Firefighter foundation has a memorial for firefighters lost in the line of duty.
With the success of the family retreat program, an upcoming FFBHA project is a Memorial Site for fallen brothers and sisters lost to suicide, where family can visit and pay their respects.

Contact

Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance ffbha.org
  3655 W. Anthem Way
  Suite A-109-374
  Anthem, AZ 85086

Office: 847-209-8208
FAX:   623-388-3642
info@ffbha.org

Linked-in: Jeff Dill

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Fire and Iron VS. TBI and PTSD

Matt Shobert

 ~ Now retired Fire Chief and Ironman athlete, Matt Shobert shares with us the details of his near fatal accident on the line, and how his life changed due to TBI / PTSD. His story of survival, which he attributes in part to his physical fitness, will inspire you. His experiences with PTSD since the accident have motivated him to speak out and share his story to assist fellow firefighters across the nation who may be suffering in silence, but also to help remove the stigma of PTS(d) for all.

 

 

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 Introducing Matt Shobert

I thought I had a fair amount of initials after my name, but here’s Matt Shobert MA, EFO, CFO, MIFireE. Matt had been the Fire Chief for the Murrieta Fire Department (MFD) since March 2011, and has served as Fire Chief for two other jurisdictions prior to joining the MFD team. He holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science. He is also a 2007 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program, has been four times accredited as a Chief Fire Officer Designee (CFOD) and was recently conferred Membership into the Institution of Fire Engineers (MIFireE). Chief Shobert completed the arduous 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run - "140.6" Ironman Arizona in Tempe on 11/17/13. On top of that, he’s had a happy double-decade long marriage. He was living an exemplary life.

Matt’s Life-Changing Event

But everything changed on July 2, 2014. On that day, Chief Shobert was on a seemingly routine outing. He went out to a field to observe a brush clearing. Murrieta California is a hot, inland town and as any people are aware, brush fire prevention is a high priority in areas like this, especially in Southern California. The Chief was out by himself when the accident occurred. When you hear what happened to Chief Shobert, you can’t help but truly respect and appreciate his innate instincts to get himself help and his utter resiliency. The Chief shares the details of his accident for the first time publicly with me on the podcast. Please listen to hear Matt tell his story in his own words.

Recovery

Matt went through several surgeries and still may be tasked with undergoing a few more. As you heard in the episode (if you didn’t listen yet, click here to do so), Matt is put together physically, but his emotional wounds are healing more slowly. The struggle is real. Matt is dealing with effects of both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. He has done extensive emotional therapy under the care of a Licensed Behavioral Health Clinician since the accident.

He has gone through avoiding the area of the accident (which he was hard-pressed to do when he still lived in Murietta), nightmares, anxiety/panic attacks, angry outbursts, suicidal thoughts, slow thought processes and general lack of interest in leaving his home at times or going to places where there may be crowds of people. Though his emotional struggles are daunting, he is getting better each day. He has incorporated exercise, continues his talk therapy, calls on emotional support from his wife and others and credits his dog, Butters, for giving him some added support and love, as well as forcing him to get out of his home and walk him as a major part of his recovery.

Matt has recently begin to train to become an Ironman athletic trainer – to keep him fit and to get back into the athletic world he misses. He’s looking forward to training others to accomplish their triathlon goals. He also is focusing his life towards telling his story as he did on this episode. He wants to help others understand the reality of what it’s like to live with post traumatic stress, and also to allow those in the fire service who are dealing with it feel less stigmatized and to ask for help when they need it. Matt is dedicating his life to giving back and helping others. A true example of personal resilience and resolve and restoration of hope for his new future.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

For more information on PTSD, please see our separate post on the subject here.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Traumatic Brain Injury is described as follows:

"Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a form of acquired brain injury, occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. A person with a mild TBI may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms of mild TBI include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking. A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also have a headache that gets worse or does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, an inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation."

 

matt-linkedin

Contact

Linked-in: matt-shobert-ma-efo-cfo-mifiree-ironman

email:         mjshobert@gmail.com

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Resources

Fire Fighters Behavioral Health AllianceFFBHA

North American Fire Fighter Veteran Network:
NAFFVN

Fire Fighters Wellness Initiative: IAFF WFI

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder via National Institute of Mental Health: PTSD/NIMH

For local support in your community, check out the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill's page on PTSD Resources: NAMI/PTSD

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website offers a wealth of information on TBI, prognosis, treatment and resources if you or someone you care for is in need of help regarding their TBI. NINDS/TBI

National Resource Center for Traumatic Brain Injury : tbinrc.com