Phoenix Fire Department sees an alarming trend in suicides

FOX 10's Nicole Garcia reports.

- Firefighters train to be physically strong and more recently, Phoenix firefighters are also getting new training on how to be mentally strong, as well.

"In 2010, we had four suicides in a really short period of time," said Phoenix Fire Capt. Ray Maione said.

Since then, Capt. Ray Maione says more than eight more of his brothers went on to end their own lives. Coping with the nature of their jobs, the sheer volume of calls, the high stress and lack of sleep all take its toll.

"When the average citizen is sleeping, we're up dealing with all kinds of problems," Capt. Maione said. "You can go from a fire to saving a baby in a house, to a baby drowning, to an older person having a heart attack. You never know what you're going to see on a daily basis."

It's not something firefighters can easily talk about, let alone admit is a problem.

"In the past, it's always been something you just kept pushing to the side," Capt. Maione said. "Now, we train the guys and let them know it's OK to ask for help."

The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance tracks firefighter and EMT suicides across the country. Founder Jeff Dill says education, awareness and resources are the first steps in preventing first responders from taking their own lives.

"Family relationships are the number one reason for firefighters completing suicide, followed by depression and addictions," Dill said. "Post-traumatic stress is actually fifth in the ranking."

"We're human like everybody else," Capt. Maione said. "We have the same problems like people we answer fire calls on. We have those same problems."

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