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Battling PTSD: Firefighters more likely to die of suicide than fire

June is PTSD Awareness Month
Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 10:54 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - First responders are nearly 10 times as likely to contemplate suicide than other adults, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month and Albany firefighters are using this time to help improve those statistics.

“I had a child in NICU who was born about 3 pounds and in the midst of him still being in NICU, I went on a call where a child about 4 pounds died and the only thing I thought about was my child. I wish I would have got counseling 17 years ago,” said Sebon Burns, the deputy fire chief with the Albany Fire Department (AFD).

Sebon Burns
Sebon Burns (WALB)

AFD firefighters are spending this month training other firefighters how to recognize the signs and seek help when they need it.

“Going on a call and the trauma that you face, reliving it and it mentally taking a toll on you. And it affects your relationships, not just work relationships but home relationships too,” said Burns.

If these things aren’t addressed, the results could be deadlier than a fire.

“You’re three times as likely to die of suicide than you are to die in a fire or in an accident on the scene,” Burns told WALB News 10.

E-911 Communications Director Sheila Sims said there is a stigma attached to reaching out.

“Ninety-two percent of responders will not ask for help. So let them know that help is available and to continue to make them aware,” said Sims.

They’re working this month and daily to help fight that stigma.

PTSD Awareness Day is June 27.

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