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How Altoona Fire & Rescue, UW Health are helping staff with suicidal thoughts

Friday, October 1, 2021
Katrina Lim | WQOW

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ALTOONA (WQOW) - Because first responders are more likely to die by suicide than the general public, UW Health in Madison is working to help address the situation, as are local agencies in the Chippewa Valley.

According to a report from the CDC this year, law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, and EMS are nearly 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the general public.

Mark Renderman, fire chief of Altoona Fire and Rescue, said in their department, they do critical incident stress debriefing within 24 to 72 hours after a traumatic event.

If that's not enough, Renderman said they also provide additional counseling through the "Employee Assistance Program."

"We go to a lot of traffic crashes. We go to equipment crashes which involve people where limbs may be damaged or individuals are damaged to the point where they can no longer be resuscitated," Renderman said. "So that's very stressful over time, especially if you have children."

All first responders are invited to attend UW Health's class aimed at first responders who are struggling or contemplating suicide. The class is being held on October 12 in Madison. 

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