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Thursday - May 3, 2018 12:50 am

La Crosse fire chief backs idea to address mental health among profession

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Firefighters see a lot.It’s not all rescuing kittens from trees.

There’s a growing problem with mental health among the profession. So, the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association is creating a task force help cope with the issue.

“You see a lot of bad things — car accidents, people passing away, fire destruction — and you carry that with you,” La Crosse fire chief Ken Gilliam said. “As you go through your career, that continues to build.

“As an organization it’s just making sure we’ve got options for our personnel to seek help when they realize they’ve got a problem.”

Gilliam added that much of the recommendations have come from a source with alternate, but somewhat related experience with mental health.

“There’s been some training the past year in La Crosse,” Gilliam explained, “and a lot of its really, as the military’s learning more and more about the PTSD related issues coming with the veterans returning from overseas, a lot of that’s leading into the public safety sector as well.”

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation said firemen are three times more likely to commit suicide than die on the job.

Mental health challenges and cancer among firefighters are two issues getting a lot of attention by the task force.

Drew Kelly

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