PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In the wake of the suicide death last week of Philadelphia Firefighter Jack Slivinski, the president of Local 22, the Firefighter’s Union, is sounding the alarm. He wants to make everyone aware of the stress first responders face and how tragedies like this can be prevented.
Local 22 President Bill Gault says the suicide death of 32-year-old Jack Slivinksi (pictured) of Rescue One has devastated his peers, “He was one of our elite. I never saw him not smiling. He was a good man, he was a good fireman. And in our world, that’s all we want people to say.”
Slivinkski’s death has shaken the entire department, Gault says, “We’re 911. We’re the guys you call when it’s an emergency, but sometimes we need help. And sometimes we have to ask other people for it. We have to be big enough to do that. We have resources; we have to use them.”
He’s concerned that many firefighters and medics are struggling with issues similar to Slivinksi’s and won’t step forward.
“My members see death, destruction and carnage every day. We’re not asking for sympathy here. It’s just that the human psyche can only take so much. Sometimes, you need help, you have to talk to somebody. You can’t hold it in.”
Gault says the suicide rate among firefighters and medics is higher then the general population, “Right now, I’d like to talk to my membership and I’d like to ask them: Look around at your crew. Look at your company. If you see anyone going through any kind of withdrawal, talk to them. We can get someone for them to talk to.”
Gault says Slivinski was a man who dedicated his life to saving others and he would want first responders to step forward now to get the help he didn’t receive.
Reported by Michelle Durham, KYW Newsradio 1060