NZPFU tours IAFF Residential facility for firefighters suffering mental health issues

NZPFU National President Ian Wright and National Secretary Wattie Watson have taken every opportunity to see IAFF health and safety initiatives and programmes while in the USA for the IAFF Redmond’s Health and Safety conference.

Yesterday we were honoured to meet with IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger at IAFF HQ in Washington DC.

We had a tour of their training, media, political and financial arms. The IAFF has created an impressive organisation that provides training on all aspects of safe work practices through to union advocacy and political lobbying available to all Locals and 380,000 members in Canada and the USA.

Today we are visiting the incredible IAFF Centre of Excellence for Behavioural Health Treatment and Recovery - a unique residential facility designed specifically to treat firefighters with PTSI, depression, anxiety and treatment also addresses each individual needs including substance abuse treatment, social anxiety and eating disorders.

The programme is designed to parallel life on the fire station and works on the basis that firefighters are being treated together and individually.

At Redmond’s we attended seminars including presentations from Centre alumni who openly talked about their mental health issues and their experiences at the Centre. They access continued support from the programme post discharge and keep in touch with one another.

We will be talking to the psychiatrists who have developed the programme with the intention of bringing back information on how psychiatrists can be trained in the unique challenges when treating firefighters.

The IAFF have been very generous in providing us with these opportunities and we have a lot of specific information that we can adapt back in New Zealand to benefit our members.

While a residential programme is out of our reach at this time the resilience training, peer support training and training psychiatrists how to treat our members are all very achievable and should be developed quickly.

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