By Michelle Durham
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Members of the Philadelphia Fire Department are getting an opportunity this week to attend a seminar about avoiding the danger of suicide among first responders.
Gerry Slivinksi, the mother of a Philadelphia firefighter who committed suicide last June, was instrumental in bringing this issue to the forefront. Now, she admits, she’s on a mission.
“Anyone who devotes their lives to helping other people is a caretaker, and we have to protect them,” she told KYW Newsradio. “And the way to protect them is to inform them and their supervisors of what to look for. Because maybe my son didn’t know what was happening to him. If I had known the signs or his supervisors would have known the signs, maybe we could have helped him.”
Hear Michelle Durham’s full interview with Gerry Slivinski in this CBS Philly podcast…
Illinois-based battalion chief Jeff Dill (back to camera in photo) is also a trained counselor who travels to teach first responders across the country the signs that people who are contemplating suicide often show. He says it’s important for others to remain aware.
“We have to take care of our own within the fire service, and we have to do it one person at a time — challenging and saying, ‘Hey, are you OK? Can I help? Can I listen?’ ”
Training sessions continue on Thursday at the Philadelphia Fire Academy and are open to area first responders, who should pre-register by calling Firefighters’ Local 22.