Firefighters experience high-risk occupational hazards that may confer increased risk for suicide; however, prevalence rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among firefighters are unknown. The purpose of this study is to describe the career prevalence of suicide ideation, plans, attempts, and non-suicidal self-injury among firefighters, in addition to sociodemographic, physical health, and occupational correlates.
Data were obtained from a cross-sectional convenience sample of 1027 current and retired firefighters who completed a nationwide web-based survey on mental health (mean age=38.49, SD=11.70; 91.2% male; 87.3% White). Sociodemographic, physical health, and occupational correlates were assessed via a structured questionnaire. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors were assessed using a modified version of the Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors Interview-Short Form (SITBI-SF).
The career prevalence estimates of suicide ideation, plans, attempts, and non-suicidal self-injury were found to be 46.8%, 19.2%, 15.5%, and 16.4%, respectively. Key factors associated with increased risk for reporting suicidal thoughts and behaviors included lower firefighter rank, fewer years of firefighter service, membership in an all-volunteer department, a history of professionally responding to a suicide attempt or death, and active duty military status.
The current study utilized a cross-sectional convenience sample of firefighters.
Firefighters report an alarmingly high career prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Our preliminary data are compelling, indicating the need for additional research as well as increased prevention and treatment efforts among firefighters to decrease suicide risk.