Local firefighters learn more about the importance of mental health

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DULUTH, MN– Depression and PTSD continue to be severe, yet common mental health issues that first responders can face.

Firefighters in Duluth learned more Friday about the importance of taking care of their mental health among one of the toughest careers.

2017 was a troubling year for firefighters across the nation, as more firefighters committed suicide than died in the line of duty, a crisis that hits close to home.

“We have people who have mental health issues right here in our own community and within our own fire department.” Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj said.

Krizaj says the topic of mental health is especially important here in the Twin Ports.

“Unfortunately we have a Superior firefighter who took his own life about a year ago, and that kinda hit home for us that this isn’t just a big city problem.”

Mental health was the focus of a presentation the Duluth Fire Department on Friday.

“We have a very strong support system, because there is still people who are suffering, and until we get the rates way down, we’re going to have to deal with the aftermath of generations of trying to ignore this issue,” said George Esbensen with the MnFIRE organization.

Their campaign is called the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative: Gearing Up for Health. It aims to provide resources to firefighters in crisis, right here in Minnesota.

“Mental health for firefighters is really big. We’re probably not sure how big it is, but we know for certain that it’s two and a half times the problem in the firefighting industry as it is in the general population.”

Chief Krizaj says it’s important to end the stigma surrounding mental health awareness first in order to allow for proper recovery.

“Firefighting has been seen as a big, macho type of career, but it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.” Krizaj said.

This was part of the Minnesota Fire Chief’s conference that is happening all week in Duluth.

The MnFIRE portion of Friday’s focus was the three main causes of death among firefighters which are cancer., cardiac issues and emotional health.

You can learn more about MnFIRE here.

Jenna Wells

Jenna Wells

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