Flint fire chief calls for more mental health resources

FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) – A local fire chief is sounding the alarm about suicide among firefighters as the Centers for Disease Control reports firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.

City of Flint Fire Chief Raymond Barton remembers former firefighter John Stenger

“Really loved the city of Flint. The community. Northern High School graduate, very proud of that. And he was just, like I said, he loved the city, did a lot in the city,” Barton said.

Stenger was the 17-year veteran of the department who died by suicide April 16.

“This was the second suicide on the fire department in less than three years. In July it’ll be three years for firefighter Jorael McGee, who was actually hired in with John Stenger,” Barton said.

According to Barton, Stenger is the third firefighter in Michigan to die by suicide in the last three months.

“It is just being more prevalent. Like we’re starting to lose more firefighters and police officers from suicides than line of duty deaths,” Barton said.

The chief wants more than just five therapy sessions per traumatic incident for each firefighter.

“When we get hurt a body part, they, we go through therapy, and they fix us until we ready to go back. But when stuff happen and it’s in our head, and you put five visits on it, I’m like, ‘we gotta do better,’” Barton said.

Equally as important as getting his firefighters help, Barton wants to figure out what is causing all of these suicides in police and fire departments.

“Emotions of anger, guilt, sadness. It’s so many emotions going through a person at this time. And like I say, this my second time in three years, and I, I don’t ever want to feel like this again, because like I said, if I’m feeling like this on the second time, it’s only going to get worse,” Barton said.

He said his men see tragedies every day on the front lines.

“We take them out of service for a minute, we can get the Chaplin’s, we get the counselors, we get support groups to come in and talk to them for a few hours or whatever. But we can put them back in service, and that very first run they go to could be a suicide,” Barton said.