Danville firefighter helping raise awareness about firefighter, EMT suicides

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DANVILLE (WSLS 10) - For firefighters and EMTs, responding to calls can become so stressful that they commit suicide.

So far this year, 902 suicides have been reported, according to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.

"Most of the calls we go on, other than your routine calls, are going to have some type of traumatic stress involved with them and over time it adds up," Firefighter Jay Farrar explained.

That's why he is trying to get mental health awareness workshops started in Danville to help educate first responders, as well as medical professionals, and religious leaders who can then help the first responders deal with their issues.

"It comes down to money, budgeting," said Farrar. "We've applied for some monies from two local charities."

Earlier this year, Farrar conducted an anonymous survey of the firefighters and 92 percent of those who responded felt the workshops are needed.

That galvanized Farrar's determination.

"I, like many members in the fire service, myself have had problems and have worked with my doctor on depression issues and other problems and I can see the benefits of physicians, counselors, and others that understand what we do," Farrar said.

Firefighter Matt Adkins said he is excited for the opportunity to potentially have these in-house workshops, especially after hearing the recent news of a Florida firefighter committing suicide.

"You feel for him. You feel for his family. You feel for the people that he worked with and it hits a lot harder because it's really close to home. That could've been someone that I worked with," Adkins said.

Danville Fire Chief David Eagle is proud of Farrar's effort.

"To have someone like Jay champion the cause and bring recognition and awareness of this and make people realize that they're not alone, there's help out there for them is a very good thing," Chief Eagle emphasized.

The goal is to have the workshops start in the spring with the hope that the training they provide will spread to other departments across Southwest Virginia.

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