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Firefighters with PTSD: When Workers’ Comp Prevents Suicide

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2018 | Workers' Compensation

Throughout the country, first responders deal with an exceptionally high suicide rate compared to the rest of the population. Firefighters with PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder often hesitate to seek help for their problem because they fear repercussions. Oftentimes, consulting with a workers comp attorney means getting the compensation and medical costs covered in order to recover from PTSD and get back on the job. If you are a firefighter in Minnesota dealing with PTSD symptoms, consult with a lawyer about your rights.

According to an article by the Star Tribune. PTSD is the silent epidemic for Minnesota firefighters. First responders including firefighters often deal with nightmares or night terrors, anxiety, rapid heart rates and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress diagnosis.

Beating the statistics

According to a study by Florida State University, 7 to 37 percent of firefighters have post-traumatic stress disorder. Alarmingly, one in five have made plans to commit suicide. Overall, first-responders throughout the country create a suicide epidemic. By seeking psychological help, some first-responders feel stigmatized or could face job loss. Depression is often viewed as a sign of weakness in a field that values strength and bravery.

The Minnesota Firefighters Initiative or FIRE wants to help firefighters beat the statistics by addressing mental health issues in fire service. According to an article by, first responders are actually more likely to die from suicide than in the line of service. A study by Ruderman Family Foundation showed that in 2017, there were more than 100 firefighter suicides and more than 140 police officer suicides. Although there may be debriefings after a mass tragedy or casualty, most firefighters and first responders do not get the help they need on a day-to-day basis. Over time, the cumulative stress creates massive mental health problems.

Experiencing flashbacks, mood swings, anxiety

Some people have the misconception that PTSD only happens in war zones or with military personnel. In actuality, the disorder is triggered by any traumatic event. Firefighters often see burn victims and dying people as well as grieving relatives. Some of the signs include flashbacks, night terrors, negative moods, anxiety, self-destructive behavior and insomnia. Experts say firefighters essentially have a front row seat to life’s horrors. With therapy, they can learn coping skills. Instead of having a suicide plan, they devise a survival plan. Police officers are at equal if not higher risk for PTSD and suicide because of the animosity toward the profession.

Experts say only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies educate their employees and provide suicide prevention help. In most cases, law enforcement, EMT, paramedics and firefighters work together responding to fatal car accidents, violent crimes and fires. Although there is support on many levels, the burnout rate is extremely high. Unlike careers such as teaching, firefighters and law enforcement officers have a window into life’s greatest heartbreak and human suffering. If you experience flashbacks or feel depressed, don’t wait to get help. Call a suicide prevention line and consult with an attorney dedicated to getting the compensation you need to keep living.

By receiving workers’ compensation, first responders and emergency service personnel struggling with PTSD are able to receive a much-needed respite to recover and heal. If you work in the field but feel as though you would be fired or disciplined for admitting to mental health issues, consult with a trained workers comp lawyer who understands the law. After risking your life every day for citizens, you deserve mental health care and pay to cover the time out of work. At the Law Office of Joshua Borken, we help firefighters struggling with PTSD receive workers’ compensation. For more information on helping firefighters with PTSD, please contact us.