TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A fire at a Tempe duplex that left a nine-year-old boy dead is highlighting the need for mental health services for firefighters. "How do you prepare for someone to see something -- a child that's dead or dying or that's been injured," said Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Deputy Chief Mark Manor.

Manor says fire departments have to be reactive when caring for a firefighter's mental health. "Over the course of a career you could see hundreds of things that just kind of bottle up. And one tragic event like we had yesterday could really set someone off and we want to do the best we can to keep that from happening."

Fire departments across the Valley, including Tempe Fire Medical Rescue, are now offering mental health services to combat PTSD. "Employee assistance programs, that kind of thing, as well as another third-party provider we use to specialize in mental health and mental wellness and they specialize in public safety personnel," Manor said. It's part of a broader shift in firefighting culture.

"No one wants to fall to an invisible enemy that we can't control," said P.J. Dean, with United Phoenix Firefighters Local 493. At the United Phoenix Firefighters office, the names and pictures of four Phoenix Firefighters who died by suicide in 2009 and 2010 are on the wall as you walk in.

"Having the loss of those firefighters just in one city alone was just sort of our moment of awakening to tell us hey, we need to start doing something differently," Dean said. United Phoenix Firefighters now offers an array of mental health resources. "That goes from just basic care counseling to having someone to talk to, you know, check in make sure everything's good, all the way up to in-patient behavioral health support," Dean said.

They're programs that aren't only provided, but ones that Dean says firefighters are actually using. "We do have members now who have more of a keen awareness," Dean said. All so the Valley's firefighters can continue to answer the call. "We're gonna do everything we can to keep them safe physically," Deputy Chief Manor said. "But the mental part's the challenge."

 

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