Supporting the mental health of firefighters, their families and our communities
Each fire season, wildland firefighters risk their lives to protect our forests and communities, and Weyerhaeuser recognizes the impact fighting these fires can have on the mental health of first responders and their families.
For the second year, Weyerhaeuser has partnered with Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance to help provide specialized support and mental health resources for wildland firefighters. Addressing mental health challenges without stigma is critical to keeping firefighters safe, and the Fighting Fires Together campaign is designed to provide an important platform to amplify education and resources available for wildland firefighters and their families in the Pacific Northwest.
“After launching last year’s inaugural Fighting Fires Together campaign with FBHA, we’re proud to continue this effort to support wildland firefighters and their mental health as they work in challenging conditions to protect our communities,” says Bill Frings, vice president of Western Timberlands for Weyerhaeuser. “Weyerhaeuser’s approach to wildfire preparedness, prevention and mitigation is a year-round strategy, and part of this includes ensuring wildland firefighters have access to the resources they need to carry out this work.”
“Through this important partnership with Weyerhaeuser, wildland firefighters can access our workshops designed by first responders for first responders, self-assessments that serve as a suicide screening for firefighters, and a directory of mental health professionals,” says Jeff Dill, founder of FBHA. “Last year’s campaign not only helped wildland firefighters access mental health information, but it also provided a like-minded community for families to find strength and support. We look forward to continuing this partnership to provide specialized education and critical resources for our communities’ heroes.”
Supporting the mental health of firefighters, their families and our communities
Coverage on the Mental Health Impacts of Wildland Firefighting and Weyerhaeuser’s efforts in the Pacific Northwest.
Mental Health Tips & Resources
Firefighters risk their lives to protect our forests and communities, and the stress of wildland firefighting can have a significant impact on mental health. The following resources can help support frontline firefighters and their families.
First Responder Behavioral Health Video Series: Focusing on topics affecting wildland firefighters, Firefighters Behavioral Health Alliance has created a video series based on their workshops for first responders.
Self-screening: This self-assessment serves as a suicide screening for firefighters. The assessment can serve as a general tool for checking on overall mental health.
Professional Directory: Partnering with an occupationally aware mental health professional can be critical to getting the right support. Below are counselors who have been vetted by FBHA and the National Volunteer Council in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Create a communications network made up of other spouses, partners or family members to support each other.
Acknowledge the power of being positive. First responders live in a world filled with negative actions and images. Having a positive home life can improve behavioral health.
Be patient and understanding when communicating. Reword or rephrase to avoid being confrontational.
Discuss setting a structured time-out. Allowing family members to reacclimate themselves back to home life is important.
Be direct. If something doesn’t look or feel right, be direct with your loved one. First responders live in a world of receiving direct information to attack problems.
Challenge with compassion and do not be afraid to point out discrepancies. First responders and their families cannot accept the “I’m okay” answer. Use compassion in your phrases and your tone of voice.
Internal size-up. First responders should ask themselves why they are acting or feeling a certain way on a daily basis. Partners and spouses can assist with this by expressing what emotions were experienced that day, and how it affected each other and other members of the family.
Addressing the Stigma of Seeking Behavioral Support
Stigma of asking for help. There are incorrect assumptions that asking for help shows weakness and goes against our culture. Asking for help when you need it is a good thing — for you, your co-workers, your family and your community.
Stigma of counselors lacking knowledge about the job. Some think that because counselors never fought a fire and don’t understand what we do, that they can’t help us. That’s not true. Counselors don’t have to understand everything we do in order to help us address our behavioral health.
Stigma of saying something wrong. Some firefighters have had very little training in behavioral health or suicide awareness and may be afraid to say something wrong. It’s okay if you don’t know all the right words. You can still ask for help and help others.
Stigma of unavailability. Some avoid seeking help because of a perceived lack of access to counseling services or culturally competent resources. However, groups like the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance are available to help.
Additionally, FBHA, along with Elizabeth Anderson-Fletcher, Ph.D., and Chaplain Mark Schimmelpfennig, M. Div., have released a report designed to help educate firefighters on the prevalence and effects of Moral Injury. As the fire service culture has begun to recognize the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, an emerging issue firefighters face is moral injury, which occurs just as often. Moral injury is a relatively new term in EMS circles, with signs and symptoms that can mirror those of the more widely recognized PTSD – even though they are distinctly different conditions. Moral injury generally results from a major conflict in one’s moral code that causes a negative response, such as having to prioritize who can be saved and who cannot. Education about its effects is critical to help individuals normalize their own unique, personal reactions.
Wildfire Facts & Figures
Every year, wildfires pose a threat to our forests, our communities and our livelihoods. These facts and figures capture some of the scope and difficulty of the work wildland firefighters do.
1,143: the estimated number of firefighters who battled Oregon wildfires last year.
140,300: the number of acres that Oregon wildfires burned in 2022.
10,000: the number of professional firefighters employed by the U.S. Forest Service who respond to thousands of wildfires each year on National Forest land alone (not counting private lands).
14: the number of consecutive days some wildland firefighters worked before receiving two or three days off.
16: number of hours in one day that some firefighters had to work in 2021 because of the number of wildfires.
8,000: number of personnel who responded to battle the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest in 2022.
1,334: square kilometers of land burned during the wildfire season in British Columbia in 2022.
Community Groups & Resources
The following groups are committed to providing safe support systems for wildland firefighters.
TEXT: 741741. Type in “Badge” in the subject line. Trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 to assist first responders and their families with behavioral health needs. Crisis Text Line uses instant text messaging for those who find it difficult to ask for help.
Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance
A nonprofit organization formed in 2010 to assist firefighters, EMS, dispatchers and their families in times of crisis. FBHA will find resources free of charge to assist those in need.
Wildland Firefighter Foundation
Wildland Firefighter Foundation focuses on helping families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and assists injured firefighters and their families.
Provides peer support and resources for fire, law enforcement, EMS and dispatchers.
Oregon Suicide Prevention
The Oregon Suicide Prevention website, hosted by Lines for Life, is a source of free information and support on suicide prevention specifically for first responders and healthcare providers.
Code 4 Northwest: 425-243-5092
Provides free, 24/7 confidential support to those within the first responder and critical care family.
Honour House Society
Honour House is a refuge, a “home away from home” for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, veterans, emergency services personnel and their families to stay, completely free of charge, while they are receiving medical care and treatment in the Metro Vancouver area.
First Responder Health
Database of occupationally aware healthcare providers located in British Columbia (and across Canada)
Wounded Warriors Canada
As a mental health service provider, they provide a range of clinically facilitated programs specifically developed to support the unique needs of veterans, first responders and their families. Programs support individuals, couples, spouses, surviving spouses and children of those who serve or have served our country and communities.