SHOP TALK: SUICIDE TRAGEDY STRIKES THE PFD AGAIN!

I was about to get into the shower this morning when my cell phone rang. It’s never a good thing for your phone to ring that early. Undoubtedly it has to be work related. Nervously I went downstairs and retrieved the phone blaring Metallicas “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. The irony is never lost on me. I looked at the phone and when I saw who the caller was knew instantly that it was a grapevine call.

The call was from another firefighter friend of mine. He was calling to let me know that another Philadelphia firefighter, friend and fire school classmate of mine Dave P. had killed himself at his home earlier this morning. Once again a wave of nausea washed over me as I thought of Dave and the tragedy this brings to his family. This is yet another blow for a department still reeling from the untimely death of popular young firefighter Jack Slivinski.

Dave was a real nice guy. I often ran into him at the union hall during our monthly meetings. We would share a beer and discuss the latest issues that our fire department faced in its never-ending contract battles with the city and our never-ending quest to do our jobs protecting the city and its citizens. Dave was intelligent and knowledgable of the important issues and always had some good insight into them. I always enjoyed our discussions. I would also see Dave on the street as he worked overtime in the medic units often. He was always hustling to earn a few extra dollars to take care of his family. Although I didn’t work in the same station with Dave, he was good friends with a few guys in my station, one in particular. I know Daves death will be difficult for him. Our class is coming up on our twentieth anniversary on the job this Feb. To say his death is a shock is an understatement.

Once again I have no explanation for why someone takes their own life. Especially after talking with some of the fellas. There were no apparent warning signs. That’s pretty scary. When someone seems totally normal for all intents and purposes (at least on the outside) yet is so torn up on the inside, to the point where they take their own life, it’s time to admit we have a serious problem. Undoubtedly twenty years on the streets of Philly had taken its toll.

I will continue to raise awareness within the job about the effects of PTSD and suicide prevention and awareness. I believe we need to start baseline testing and screening for all new firefighters as well as periodic follow-up care and tracking throughout the course of our career. It needs to be mandatory so as to diminish any stigmatization that may be associated with the issues surrounding PTSD. We also need better training for our supervisors in realizing when to use the CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) process. Far too many incidents of traumatic or brutal nature go by with minimum or no immediate follow-up stress management provided to the members. Far too many carry far too much weight. Sooner or later we all reach a breaking point.

I’m tired of seeing my friends and co-workers being killed by this job whether it’s on the fireground or in their own homes. The result is the same.

Rest in peace Dave. My deepest sympathies to your family.

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10 Responses to SHOP TALK: SUICIDE TRAGEDY STRIKES THE PFD AGAIN!

  1. Bob Orr says:

    Condolences to and prayers for Dave’s family and to all who knew him and worked with him.

  2. Bob G. says:

    Cap:
    My prayers go out to Dave’s family, you and yours, as well as your brothers & sisters in the department.

    Here’s hoping some can take from this tragedy the ability and willingness to REACH OUT to a fellow firefighter or even a professional for whatever assitance is required.

    There are silent killers all around us every day, and we have to be vigilant to keep them at bay.
    And we should never be too proud to ask for help when it’s needed.

    Stay strong.
    Roll safe out there.

  3. Spock says:

    Funny story about Dave and “CISD”. He was OT on the backstep with me for my first ever fatal shoe run, a trauma code we worked until medics came/scene pronouncement. Week later he’s working with me again, having a good time as always when he asked what I thought about the guy from that run. I simply replied “I think he’s dead”. He said “I think you’ll be OK in this job” and the usual kitchen table banter continued…

    I hope you have found peace and can rest now, Dave. You’re gonna be missed…

  4. Old NFO says:

    Thoughts and prayers for his family and all of y’all… Good point on the CISD too.

  5. mikemadden59 says:

    WTH I always safe be safe but we need to rethink this. Sorry to hear

  6. Cs says:

    I know younwrite as a fire captain and are majority fire but us medics see things daily that drive the common man to tears. I saw a man my own age dead from suicide not teonweeks ago, and had to tell his brother who was 1000 miles away his brother was dead. This department is down our throats on our mistakes, accidents, complaints, etc but where are they when WE need them.

    They take great joy in transfering members as disipline but think not of thr mental ramifications of spliting someone from there familar and trusted enviroment and placing them else where.

    I know at least one fire department that has there own suicide prevention hotline froma story I read on firehouse.com. I fowarded it to Bill Gault and hope it wasn’t lost. But, in the mean time we alll have each others back “on the job” lets keep a bigger eye on each other when werr not in the s**t.

  7. Gerry Slivinski says:

    My name is Gerry Slivinski, Jack Jr’s. mom. We just came home last night and heard from our daughter the terrible news. I am so sorry for Dave’s family. I am going to reach out to them. This is such a terrible loss to our whole city again. We really need to support this family through this. I am so sorry, you are in my prayers. I will help in any way I can. I could not agree more about helping all of the members. Can someone tell me who wrote this article? Please contact me? Thank you.

  8. Girard Samson says:

    In some regard, there must be a common-felt feeling of hopelessness that stems from the top. You see what and who I’m referring to….

    Lloyd Ayers, your time is up. Resign for your own integrity. Mayor Nutter: ACT!!!!

  9. Dustoff says:

    All my prayers Capt.

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