Mental Health Service Use and Help-Seeking Among Women Firefighters With a Career History of Suicidality

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Abstract

Research indicates that women firefighters may experience elevated rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors; however, little is known about how at-risk women firefighters interface with mental health services and other support sources. This study aimed to identify rates of mental health service use and help-seeking, correlates of service use, and preferred sources of support among women firefighters with a career history of suicidality. A sample of 119 United States women firefighters reporting a history of suicide ideation, plans, and/or attempts during their firefighting careers completed a web-based survey of behavioral health. Descriptive statistics, chi-square tests, and logistic regression analyses were utilized to examine rates of help-seeking and correlates of service use. Of the sample, 73.1% reported seeking professional mental health services and 43.7% reported seeking other forms of support (e.g., support groups, hotlines) during their firefighting careers. Stigma concerns were most frequently cited as hypothetical barriers to care; however, rates of stigma concerns did not appear to be significantly higher among service users. Participants reported a preference for seeking care from a psychologist, therapist, and/or counselor. Findings indicate that the majority of women firefighters with a career history of suicidality have utilized mental health services or other sources of support during their firefighting careers. Results suggest that self-reported stigma may not serve as a significant barrier to mental health service utilization in this population. Further research is needed to examine the temporal relationship between suicidality and service use in a nationally representative sample of women firefighters.

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