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Addressing Suicide: A Proactive Approach to First Responder Mental Wellness
Students learn the importance of proactive mental health as a means to combat the many mental health disorders that are common among first responders. These include depression, addiction, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms. Tragically, when not addressed, the end result of each of these can be suicide. As first responders, when we think of mental health disorders, we often think in terms of us vs them. We believe that our responsibility to our community means we can never show any sort of weakness. This misperception can lead members to suppress emotions and fail to address the underlying causes that can build into crisis.
The most devastating and profound of these all is suicide. Yet, suicide stems from mental disorders, and according to FSU Psychologist Thomas Joiner, mental health disorders are “common, tractable, treatable, and nothing to be ashamed about.” In his work with the first responder community, he found that due to the nature of our work, we are more likely to suffer from certain mental health disorders. If the underlying causes and causal factors are identified early enough and addressed, each of these can be mitigated. Students will learn methods to prevent suicide by learning its traceable causes. Rather than focusing on individual risk factors, this course is designed to explain how creating an environment to encourage help seeking behavior can alter an individual's trajectory from reaching suicide. Individual, company level & departmental methods for prevention are explained. Suicide tragically results when the decedent incorrectly concludes their death could be a service to others. While there are many causes associated with suicide, there are a few risk factors that can be identified early to help with intervention. Sadly, our ability to predict suicide today is no better than chance. I posit that by creating a culture of acceptance and understanding through positive social support, we can make strides at improving mental health.

Jul 16, 2020 02:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Dena Ali
Captain @Raleigh (NC) Fire Department
DENA ALI is a captain with the Raleigh (NC) Fire Department where she has worked her way up the ranks. She previously served as a police officer for five years. Ali has a degree from North Carolina State University and an MPA from the University of North Carolina—Pembroke, where her research focused on firefighter suicide. As a graduate student, she was awarded the 2018 MPA student of the year. She has also received several awards throughout her career. One that she is most proud of is the NC Office of State Fire Marshal Honor, Courage, and Valor award that she earned in 2018 for her steadfast effort to bring awareness to firefighter mental health through her vulnerability. Dena is an advocate of awareness, education, and understanding of mental health disorders and suicidality. She speaks locally and nationally on these topics, serves as an adjunct instructor for the National Fire Academy, and is a QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Instructor. She has written several articles on topi