During the month of May, Mental Health America – the nation’s leading community-based network dedicated to helping Americans live mentally healthier lives – marks National Mental Health Month.
The FDNY Foundation, along with the FDNY, is marking the month by spotlighting the work of the Department’s Counseling Services Unit (CSU).
“The mental health of our members is of the utmost importance,” said Captain Frank Leto, the Deputy Director of the FDNY Counseling Services Unit. “Being in this department for 32 years, I know firefighters and EMTs respond to the most dangerous situations, but if they’re having a problem in their family or emotionally, that’s what can stop them in their tracks. We have to make sure that everyone is operating at their optimum level.”
The CSU has a staff of professionals dedicated to providing mental health evaluations, direct treatment and referrals for all employees: Fire, EMS and other civilians. With five locations, the CSU offers appointments for individuals, families and phone counseling.
“This is very difficult work,” said Captain Leto. “It’s a tremendous amount of stress. Balancing life with this work can sometimes just beat you up. We’re there for all of our members at those points.”
The CSU offers a unique peer program, funded by the FDNY Foundation, which allows current and retired FDNY members to meet members of the FDNY at their places of work.
“We can go to firehouses, sit down at kitchen tables and talk with our members. Our peer program allows us to have eyes and ears in the field, to be a bridge to the clinical services,” said Captain Leto. “Often times, after one of those visits, we get a call from a member saying they’re struggling with something. That’s what’s amazing about the peer program. Without people knocking on the door, letting our members know what’s available, they wouldn’t come in for help.”
“The FDNY stands behind its members and fully supports their health, both physical and mental,” said FDNY Foundation Chairman Stephen Ruzow. “We are so proud that the Foundation is able to provide a peer program to help make that support possible.”
The CSU also offers additional education for members of the FDNY, including presentations for probationary firefighters, as well as EMS refresher courses and visits to firehouses; Captain Leto estimates members of the peer program travel to hundreds of locations each year.
“I can’t say enough about what this peer program has done for our members. From the days of 9/11 to today, I see that it changes lives,” said Captain Leto. “The program is truly invaluable. You can’t put a price tag on what the Foundation has done for us, or on what we’ve been able to offer.”
For more information on the Counseling Services Unit, click here.
"I can’t say enough about what this peer program has done for our members. From the days of 9/11 to today, I see that it changes lives. The program is truly invaluable. You can’t put a price tag on what the Foundation has done for us, or on what we’ve been able to offer."