Jamie McIntyre, Community Risk Reduction Manager
Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 2:21 p.m.
Emergency responders are the people we count on to rush in, when everyone rushes out. And it can take its toll, with firefighters being 2 times more likely to die from suicide than they are to die in the line-of-duty*, according to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). And the stress is even greater now, as these frontline workers battle wildfires and a pandemic, making this National Suicide Prevention Month even more critical.
Tuesday, September 29th at 10:30am PDT, the Spokane community is participating in a dedication ceremony for the Spartan Axe at Spokane Fire Department Fire Station 1, 44 W. Riverside Ave. Madam Mayor Nadine Woodward will be in attendance.
“The risks that firefighters endure on a daily basis can take their toll both physically and mentally” stated Spokane Fire Department Chief Brian Schaeffer. “Firefighters- volunteer, career, seasonal and everything in between, check-in with your brothers and sisters, be aware of the risk factors and indicators for possible suicidal thoughts. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone” Schaeffer continued.
The Spartan Axe was forged by Spokane resident and veteran, Ben Hayhurst, of Wreath and Rifle Forge using steel from the fallen World Trade Center Towers in New York City -- the same steel provided for the Spartan Sword which was created by New York firefighter Danny Prince and Warfighter Hemp founder Lt Col Steve Danyluk (USMC ret). The Sword travels the country with former US Marine and current FDNY firefighter Aaron Clark, who share the Spartan Pledge to increase awareness of the high rate of suicide among the veteran community – as many as 22 lives lost to suicide each day. The Spartan Pledge is a simple two sentence oath that a veteran pledges to a fellow veteran to turn to them for support in a times of crisis.
“The Spartan Axe and Pledge are about giving the men and women who so bravely serve on the front lines the support they need,” said Lt Col Steve Danyluk (USMC ret). “We hope to stem the excessive suicide rate among first responders.”
Similarly, the Spartan Axe offers support to first responders who are at a higher risk of death by suicide than they are in the line-of-duty. Because of the nature of the work, first responders are at risk for many behavioral health concerns including: anxiety, depression, burnout, post-traumatic and acute stress, addiction, and more.
After Tuesday’s dedication ceremony in Spokane, the Spartan Axe will travel to New York City where it will be permanently displayed at the Fire Training Academy. The message will be shared during ceremonies across the country.
*2019 statistics, firefighters are 2 times more likely to die from suicide (119 reported) than they were to die in the line-of-duty (48).
Rita F. Fahy, Jay T. Petrillo and Joseph L. Molis. Firefighter Fatalities in the US-2019. National Fire Protection Association. https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Emergency-responders/osFFF.pdf
Warfighter Hemp and Independence Corps, a Dallas-based nonprofit that brings mobility, independence and dignity to disabled veterans and first responders, are sponsoring the Spartan Axe. Visit IndependenceCorps.org to learn more about the technological advancements that help veterans and first responders regain mobility.