The death of Cowlitz 2 battalion chief Mickel Zainfeld has prompted local agencies and grassroots groups to boost efforts to help firefighters, police and other first responders cope with the emotional trauma of their jobs.
And one way may be for both them and the public to tone down the superhero image they bear.
“I think one of the big challenges is just the need for culture change,” Cowlitz County chaplain Doug Fields said. “I think first responders are no different than the rest of the community. … There is still a stigma that if you ask for mental health (help), reach out to a counselor, therapist or pastor … somebody’s going to think less of you.”
There are “years and years of history” of a culture around being tough and “getting over it and moving on” after hard calls, Fields said.
Zainfeld, 41, took his own life September, and his death was officially declared work-related due to his diagnosis of work-related PTSD.