Suicide Prevention And Peer Support

The focus is on methods for preventing suicide and learning its traceable causes.  The class will focus on the individual, company, and departmental methods for prevention. Suicide tragically results when the decedent incorrectly concludes that his/her death could be a service to others. Some of the common risk factors that can be identified early to help with intervention are discussed, including social isolation and withdrawing from others. The model for explaining suicidal behavior developed by Dr. Thomas Joiner is introduced and analyzed. The causes that lead to fire service suicide are varied and can be work-related, personal, or a combination. Resources like peer support and treatment to prevent maladapitve coping are explained. 

Learning Objectives

Key objectives are: 
• Suicide as a dark secret in the fire service
• Risk factors for suicide
• Protective factors associated with prevention, and methods of stress management. 
• Company Officer / Department responsibilities. 
Dr. Joiner's Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (IPTS) model consisting of only three constructs is discussed in detail through case review, various risk factors, & a picture of understanding is painted throughout the course so that prevention can be recognized.


Class is delivered as a lecture utilizing power point, video, and student feedback. The class outlines factors involved in fire service suicide and discusses strategies for detection and prevention. These strategies focus on all aspects involved in the fire service: probationary, firefighters, company officers, mental health professionals, and departmental guidelines. The key to suicide prevention is understanding it's tractable causes. Oftentimes, these are more easily understood through discussing case study of firefighters in crisis. Explaining their trajectories serves to demonstrate how easily one can reach crisis and the power of admitting when you need a little extra help. Demonstrating the power of help seeking behavior as a form of prevention is key. Significant portion of the class is utilized to explain Dr. Thomas Joiner's Interpersonal Psychological Theory of Suicide (IPTS). This model has stood up to over 20 empirical tests and simply paints a picture.

Here is a link to a more detailed class explanation:


Dena Ali

Dena is a captain with the Raleigh (NC) Fire Department and intermediate with Wake County EMS. Prior to becoming a firefighter, she served five years as a police officer in North Carolina. Ali has a degree from North Carolina State University. She is a graduate student at UNCP, and her research focuses on firefighter suicide. Ali taught her class on suicide prevention at FDIC International 2017. She is an avid cyclist and founding member of the Carolina Brotherhood. Ali also serves as an advocate for 555fitness.