Lakeland Fire Department addressing post-traumatic stress in firefighters

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If you think you’re stressed at work, imagine being a firefighter. They deal with people during the lowest points of their lives, while their house is burning, or just moments after a terrible, possibly fatal car crash.

What’s worse, according to Assistant Chief Rick Hertzog of the Lakeland Fire Department, it is difficult for firefighters to move on after experiencing an especially traumatic situation.

“We pass by these locations where we run these calls over and over again,” he told FOX 13, noting the stress “continues to build up inside of us until sometimes we are just unable to cope.”

Traditionally, if firefighters confided that they were having a hard time emotionally, they would have been told to just deal with it and move on.

“That's how they handled it, they buried those feelings down,” said Tom Howard, a trainer from Illinois Firefighter Peer Support.

The Lakeland Fire Department brought Howard in for two days to teach key employees to be confidantes for people who are struggling with stress. The participants are also being trained how to connect people who need help with those who can provide it.

That marks a major change in fire service. Until recently, firefighters were expect to work out their problems on their own and not share them. The result can be post-traumatic stress, or in more severe cases, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Organizations like Howard’s want departments to pinpoint and treat problems at work before they become bigger ones, including at home.