Suicidal thoughts and behaviors among women firefighters: An examination of associated features and comparison of pre-career and career prevalence rates.
Stanley, I.H., Hom, M.A., Spencer-Thomas, S., & Joiner, T.E.
Women protective service workers die by suicide at a higher rate than women workers in other occupational groups. However, no study has examined rates and correlates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among women firefighters, despite the potential for these data to inform suicide screening, prevention, and intervention initiatives. The purpose of this study is to describe and compare pre-career and career rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors and identify their sociodemographic and occupational correlates among women firefighters.
Data were obtained from 313 current U.S. women firefighters who completed a web-based survey (mean age = 37.30y, SD = 9.70y, 92.7% White).
Pre-career rates of suicide ideation, plans, attempts, and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) were found to be 28.4%, 10.2%, 5.8%, and 11.2%, respectively. Career rates of suicide ideation, plans, attempts, and NSSI were found to be 37.7%, 10.9%, 3.5%, and 9.3%, respectively. Pre-career rates of suicide ideation (OR = 4.760, 95% CI = 2.820–8.034, p < 0.001), plans (OR = 4.867, 95% CI = 2.067–11.463, p < 0.001), attempts (OR = 7.175, 95% CI = 1.726–29.828, p = 0.007), and NSSI (OR = 9.676, 95% CI = 4.130–22.670, p < 0.001) were significantly associated with career suicidality. With few exceptions, neither sociodemographic characteristics nor firefighter experiences were associated with career suicidal symptoms.
Study limitations include a cross-sectional design and convenience sample recruitment strategy.
Women firefighters report elevated rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Suicidal symptoms occurring prior to one’s tenure as a firefighter—and not solely an aspect of firefighter career experiences—should be considered in suicide risk screening, prevention, and intervention initiatives. Studies examining modifiable suicide risk factors and correlates (e.g., psychiatric symptoms, workplace harassment) are needed.