Marion County Fire Rescue addresses suicides within the department
MARION COUNTY, Fla. - "We’re all searching for answers and trying to assign blame," Marion County Fire Rescue Chief James Banta shared in an emotional video posted after two recent deaths reported within his department. Banta continued, "Many have expressed concerns that low pay, workload, mandatory overtime, lack of sleep, substance abuse, PTSD, and addiction could be examples of the root cause. These are all valid issues, and we are planning on addressing them."
This message from the chief comes after community leaders confirm two Marion County medics took their own lives within a three-week period.
The International Association of Firefighters, the labor union that represents firefighters and medical service personnel, is now drawing attention to the conditions and pressures firefighters are under within the department. In a statement, a spokesperson wrote:
"The IAFF mourns the deaths of MCFR Firefighter Paramedic Allen Singleton and MCFR Firefighter Paramedic Tripp Wooten.
"Finances, relationship issues, and addiction consistently impact firefighter suicide.
"Marion County firefighters have a workload double that of larger departments in Florida, yet they have half the workforce. And, due to forced overtime, Marion County firefighters are working close to 70 hours a week. Everyone has to balance work and life, but unlike firefighters and paramedics, most people get to sleep when it’s dark out and are not working forced overtime on ambulances and fire trucks.
"Firefighters need the resources to do the job well, including a fair wage and the funding to recruit and retain a workforce. This ensures we can always answer the call; it is what municipalities owe our firefighters, their families, and our communities."
Jeff Dill is the founder and CEO of the Firefighter Behavior Health Alliance, an organization created to educate firefighters and their families about behavioral health issues.
"I’ve never seen in all my years a January that was so horrific with numbers," Jeff Dill said.
Dill has been tracking the number of firefighter and EMT suicides across the country for the past 13 years. He told FOX 35, in January alone, 10 firefighters and 1 EMT committed suicide across the country. "That scares me because if you project that out then you’re looking at about 140 fire and EMS suicides which is an increase from last year, where we only had so far 81," Dill added.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, you can also call or text 988 — or chat at 988lifeline.org.