NEW YORK — A nonprofit that helps FDNY and their families with mental health counseling says they’re seeing record high numbers when it comes to people reaching out for help.
They tell CBS New York’s Shosh Bedrosian the culture around mental health in the community continues to improve, but some calls for help can have a long-lasting impact.
Former FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro remembers being outside the Engine 48 firehouse in the Bronx in January 2022.
“If it weren’t for the heroics, that death total would’ve been considerably higher,” Nigro said.
Jan. 9, 2022, is a day most Bronxites won’t forget and a day firefighters at Engine 48 remember well.
“Our members tried diligently, fire and EMS members, to bring some of these people back,” Nigro said at the time.
Seventeen people, including eight children, died in a tragic fire at the Twin Parks North West Apartments in Fordham Heights.
A year and a half later, Nigro explained to Bedrosian the mental health challenges firefighters face in the aftermath of a call.
“They had to come to grips with the fact that they couldn’t save multiple people in this fire, and that’s not easy to get over,” he said.
Nigro is now on the Board of Directors for Friends of Firefighters, a nonprofit that provides free, independent and confidential mental health services to active and retired FDNY firefighters and their families.
The organization says they’ve seen a 35% increase in counseling sessions within the last two years and more people reaching out for help than ever before.
“People are more open to getting help. At one time, it was stigmatizing,” Nigro said.
“Our membership are all affected by traumatic EMS events. Car accidents, child abuse, you name it and we see it,” retired FDNY firefighter Peter Gorman said.
The organization says culture change around mental health in the FDNY began after 9/11. They say firefighters continue to face trauma on calls every day and reaching out for help should always be an option, especially as many prepare for the remembrance of 9/11 in weeks to come.
“This month of August is very difficult to go through … We think of the losses, we think of our friends that we lost. It’ll never go away,” Nigro said.
If you or someone you know needs help, text or call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. Trained counselors are available 24/7.