VCOS Yellow Ribbon Report: Under the Helmet: Performing an Internal Size-Up A Proactive Approach to Ensuring Mental Wellness

The goal of this report is to bring awareness about the fire and emergency services’ emotional and behavioral health problem, and emphasize the importance of changing the culture.  The fire service can easily trace its roots back to a batch of rough and tumble folks who—due to lack of tools, research, and education—often relied on courage and brawn to get the job done.  As tools improved and we grew collectively smarter, the behaviors we identified as most risky at the time were addressed and eliminated from the industry as they could be.  However, many responders still cling to outdated techniques and procedures as either a way of honoring tradition or hazing the new generation with a ritualistic rite of passage.  Not long ago, veteran firefighters derided comrades for wanting to put on air packs before walking into a burning structure.  Even today, rookies might express their feelings after their first horrific scene, only to be told by the “seasoned veteran” to “Suck it up, Buttercup.”  Let us be clear, the “Suck it up, Buttercup,” mentality is NOT the approach to take.

This report has background information, statistics, resources, and action items for departments to use to ensure the mental wellness of their members.   It is our duty to take care of each other and our teams and to remember those who we have lost to behavioral health suicides - it is in their memory that this report is dedicated. 


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