Firefighters, including Detroit crews, suffer from PTSD, other mental health issues as result of job

95 percent say they experience critical stress while working

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor, Amber Ainsworth

DETROIT - A survey conducted by NBC New York and the International Association of Firefighters found that firefighters are battling more than just fires.

Firefighters struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

"We suffer from the same challenges the general public does -- financial issues, marital issues. Now you compound that with the horror that we see every day, day in and day out. It adds up and eventually takes its toll," Jim Brinkely of the International Association of Firefighters said.

Ninety-five percent of the 7,000 surveyed said they experience critical stress on the job, and three quarters of the the firefighters said it leaves them with unresolved issues. Many of them, 71 percent, have trouble sleeping, and 65 percent of them are constantly haunted by bad memories.

"We're no different than someone on the battlefield [with] the death and the destruction that we witness," Derrick Foxhall, a 20-year-veteran of the Detroit Fire Department, said.

The survey also found that 81 percent of firefighters fear they will be seen as weak or unfit for duty if they talk about the emotional toll of their job, and 87 percent said it keeps them from getting the help they need.

Capt. Dean Pincheck, who has been with DFD for 29 years, tends to avoid talking about the things he's seen while working.

"There was one that we had four dead children in the building and the parents; the mother left to go to the store and when we get there, there were four dead children in there," Pincheck said.

Detroit firefighters have the help of a personal guidance unit, but many departments don't have the same kind of support.

Learn more about the survey and the toll the job takes on firefighters in the video above.

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