Dallas Fort Worth

City council approves paid mental health leave for Dallas firefighters, all city employees to help address suicide rate…

“This is kind of the first step of a person recognizing themselves that they need help and then getting help,” said Dallas Fire Fighters Assoc. president Jim McDade. Photo: IStock

The recent suicides of two Dallas firefighters spurred action at Dallas City Hall to award paid mental health leave for firefighters, something only Dallas police officers received before today.

Councilman Adam McGough started the discussion at Wednesday’s council meeting by reading a difficult letter from the widow of Dallas firefighter John Kenny Crutcher. 

The Dallas Fire-Rescue captain died Nov. 12, 2021, at the age of 45. The letter revealed for the first time publicly that his death was by suicide. 

“His passion for the job is why the bad calls took such a toll on him,” McGough said, reading the letter that recounted incidents, particularly those that involved badly injured children, which took an emotional toll on the firefighter. 

“He needed a day off, or several really,” his wife wrote. “Because he cared as much as he did.”

“And then, our second firefighter killed himself in December,” said Dallas Fire Fighters Association President Jim McDade, who worked with the mayor and city council to get the paid mental health leave approved.  

McDade said the city does have an employee assistance program, firefighters can seek help through their chaplain’s office, and they do have a peer support team (as does the union) where firefighters can seek help from each other. But Dallas firefighters did not have the opportunity to receive paid mental health leave. 

“The problem with the department is a lot of guys are very nervous about going to the department on issues related to behavioral health, because they don’t want to get in trouble or be labeled or anything like that,” said McDade. 

The ordinance passed Wednesday amends city policies to open up paid mental health leave to all city employees, including firefighters. 

McDade said firefighters will have the ability to self-report they are experiencing mental health issues, such as PTSD, and will then meet with a mental health professional to approve their paid time off. 

“This is kind of the first step of a person recognizing themselves that they need help and then getting help,” McDade said. “It might not be the solution, but it is the first step in the equation of getting somebody the help that they need.” 

Studies show that more firefighters die from suicide each year than in the line of duty.

As of Wednesday, Dallas firefighters can step back, get paid time off and have the opportunity to save themselves too. 

Written By: Kevin Reece for WFAA Dallas, Texas

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