Resilience Training for Firefighters: A Proposed Approach
In the course of doing their jobs, firefighters unavoidably experience stressful and even traumatic situations that can lead to emotional and behavioral health problems including anxiety, burnout, depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide. Current approaches to addressing these problems tend to focus on assistance and treatment that takes place following traumatic events, or after symptoms emerge. While these important efforts must continue, the science of positive psychology can suggest a more proactive approach through the development of resilience skills, which prepare individuals to resist the negative effects of stressful events and situations, and support overall well-being. Resilience training teaches thinking and coping skills that can be employed on the job as well as at home and in other circumstances. Existing evidence-based resilience training programs used in military and educational settings are reviewed, as well as literature addressing factors specific to firefighter and emergency responder populations. A firefighter resilience training program is recommended that takes into account the fire service culture and focuses on developing increased self-efficacy through increased social support and flexible, accurate thinking habits that promote optimism. Suggested interventions and measures are presented, along with ideas for fostering an environment of resilience within the fire department.