Most of us have probably felt the strain of our job or the difficulty of balancing the fire service with other areas of our lives. It’s easy to try to muscle through it knowing we have an important job helping others and keeping them safe. However, there comes a point where we need to let others help us. And it doesn’t need to be a crisis to reach that point.
With May as Mental Health Awareness Month, we at MnFIRE want to make sure all fire service members know the resources available to those of us in the field. Through the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program (HHAP), every active firefighter in the state – full-time, part-time, paid-on-call or volunteer – has access to mental health support – all free!
It comes through the MnFIRE Assistance Program (MAP), one of the three elements of the HHAP. In the fire service, we encounter unique emotional and mental stresses. We need people who understand the distinct and specific stresses and challenges we encounter. This program focuses on providing mental health care specifically to us – firefighters and our families. And it doesn’t matter the size of the help needed, whether through a big crisis or a small issue, the MAP program can steer us in the right direction. There are two ways to access help – calling 888-784-6634 or visiting www.mnfireinitiative.com/hhap/#MAP.
One of the best parts about this program is having it available to our families. Our time in the fire service affects them, too. They have their own unique set of stressors. Any member of a firefighter’s household, including children living away from home, can access the interactive website or contact a trained specialist. Each firefighter and/or their family members can receive up to five counseling visits a year with additional support ensured as needed.
No call or inquiry is too small. Simply look at the website or dial the phone. There is someone there to talk you through what is available. If something major happened in your life or if you’re just feeling stressed, the MAP program is here to help.
Another great part of MAP is the peer support program where firefighters are paired with a trained peer supporter who knows firsthand the difficulties firefighters face. They are fellow fire service members in Minnesota who are there to lend a listening ear or offer support, all completely anonymous. They are well-equipped to walk alongside us as we encounter life at the firehall, on calls and beyond.
We don’t need to muscle through challenges alone. There are people ready and willing to help no matter the size of the problem. It doesn’t need to be a crisis to ask for mental health help.