Firefighters are regularly exposed to critical incidents such as conflict, violence, injury, death. These traumatic events can place individuals at risk of various mental illnesses.
A study in 2017 was conducted with more than 5,800 respondents in emergency services. The study showed that the occurrence rate of a single symptom (15.1%) or multiple symptoms (26.7%) of mental disorders in public safety providers was substantially higher than the general public (10.1%). 2 In particular, the study found that firefighters screened positive for symptoms at a rate of 34.%, three times the rate for the general public 3.
A different study conducted in 2017 by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that, more firefighters died by suicide than in the line of duty. The same study found that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression can be almost five times as high among firefighters and police officers than the general public 4.
In general, research shows that the more years of service in firefighting, the higher the chance of screening positive for mental illness symptoms. According to the study titled “Mental Disorder Symptoms among Public Safety Personnel in Canada”, 45.1% of respondents with more than 15 years of service in firefighting screened positive for a mental illness. 47% were those of 10-15 years in service, 40.9% were those with 4-9 years of service, and 36.8% had less than 4 years of service 5. These high statistics may be linked to stigma around mental health (not seeking support), financial barriers to seeking support, or lack of awareness or access to care and support.
But there is no need to suffer in silence – the help you need is here. Fortunately, there are many resources in Ontario and Canada that are free and readily accessible. Below are resources for PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation, as well as general resources.
Access PTSD services & treatment from the Canadian Association of Mental Health (CAMH): https://www.camh.ca/en/your-care/access-camh
If you, or someone you know, are in crisis and considering suicide, don’t wait. Call someone who can help. Go to your nearest hospital emergency department or Call 911.
- Crisis Services Canada
- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
- Ontario Suicide Prevention Network
- Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours: First Aid Guidelines
Boots on the Ground provides confidential, caring, and compassionate Peer Support to First Responders across Ontario.
ConnexOntario provides free and confidential health services information for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness or gambling.
Full index of resources for various mental health & addiction conditions:
A free cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program that offers guided mental health self-help support for adults and youth 15 and older.
Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT)
iCBT is a practical, short-term program delivered online. It helps people develop skills and strategies to address symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression.
To learn more and get services, visit: