FIREFIGHTERS may be at higher risk of committing suicide due to the psychological impact of the job, according to a new report.
The report, examining the hidden cost of firefighting, was prepared by the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle for the United Firefighters Union (UFU) Victorian branch.
"Given the psychological impact of firefighting - higher prevalence of PTSD, depression, anxiety and alcohol or drug use - there is a probability that firefighters may be more likely to commit suicide," says the report, released today.
Some firefighters believed some colleagues were suffering from an undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.
There was also a perception that the toll of the job left all firefighters vulnerable to PTSD, even after retirement, when they lost the support of co-workers.
The report said the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and Country Fire Authority (CFA) had programs designed to minimise or prevent adverse psychological effects, but those interviewed felt there was inadequate support from management, particularly for CFA members.
UFU Victorian secretary Peter Marshall says support services have not kept pace with the changing role of firefighters.
"Management may view its support programs as successful, but often the reality is otherwise," he said in a statement.
"Whilst peers are dedicated and committed, it's clear that management is disconnected from the workers on the fire ground and not fully supporting programs to the level necessary to address this crisis."
The Victorian government and fire officials have yet to respond to the report.
- Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.