Behavioral health training underway in Southside for first responders

Training aims to prevent first-responder suicides

DANVILLE, Va. – For firefighters and other first responders, the stresses of the job can easily become overwhelming, leading to suicide.

That's what Jeff Dill is trying to prevent by traveling around the country and offering behavioral health training classes for firefighters.

Dill founded the nonprofit Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance in 2011 and it is the only organization in the country that continually tracks firefighter and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) worker suicides.

"To date, we have validated 1,014 firefighter and EMS suicides," Dill said. "When confidential reports come in to our website, I then call...the fire chief or the EMS chief and validate the report."

He offers seven classes that cover a variety of topics for active and retired first responders as well as their families and counselors who work with first responders.

Two of those classes are being offered this week in Danville.

Thursday was the second day of training and over 100 firefighters, dispatchers, and members of law enforcement from Danville and the surrounding area had already participated.

"It's 'Saving Those Who Save Others' and then 'An Internal Size-Up,'" Dill said, naming the two classes being held.

"The 'Internal Size-Up' is pretty much a lead-up of why we are acting the ways (we are) and how it gets us, unfortunately, to maybe the thoughts and ideations of suicide," Dill continued.

Danville firefighter Jay Farrar has been working since last summer to bring these classes to Danville.

A grant from the Community Foundation paid for them.

"I'm really excited that we were able to get the funding to have these classes. I've already gotten great feedback from some of the crews that came (Wednesday)," said Farrar.

Farrar has also found the classes to be very beneficial.

"(They) just gave me a better knowledge to know what to look for, not only in myself but in my brothers and sister that I work with," Farrar said.

More classes are being planned for later this year or early next year.

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