How facial hair could help Fishers firefighters, and others, deal with mental issues

FISHERS, Ind (WISH) – New numbers show how suicide impacts Great Lakes region firefighters, and in Fishers, a group of men are getting hairy to raise awareness for it.

On Wednesday, the International Fire Chief’s Association Great Lakes division said in 2016, 76 firefighters have committed suicides. It’s a mental illness Fishers Fire Department Lieutenant,Josh Mehling said can crop up at any time.

“You never know what’s going to be that trigger,” Lt. Mehling said. “We call it the cumulative affect where you constantly see these things and we don’t know what it is but there is a trigger at some point.”

This is why the county offers a peer group, and if firefighters request help, they can get it anonymously. “By us putting these preventative measures in place, I think provides a healthier workforce,” Lt. Mehling said.

Firefighters aren’t alone. A 2016 CDC study shows men in farming, fishing and forestry suffer the most. For women, it’s protective service.

Knowing these issues with mental health issues exist, the city of Fishers started a mental health initiative this year. And this month, they’ve taken it a step further by asking men to grow out their facial hair to help raise awareness to this problem.

“Some people are doing to the full no shave action,” John DeLucia said. “So it’s going to get a little hairy around Fishers, Indiana this November.”

DeLucia is behind the campaign. It’s part of the “Movember” moment, normally known for prostate awareness, but a group of Fishers men will raise money for mental health.

“Money is very helpful and important, but really it’s the awareness, and just kind of the fun, and that’s kind of a nice side bar,” DeLucia said.

And Lieutenant Mehling knows this hairy act can make a big difference. “For them to standup, and say, ‘You know, this is an issue, in our city,’ I think it wonderful because now we can really take the stigma away and go out and help people,” Lt. Mehling said.

As for the group dropping the razers, they’re going to get together at the end of the month in downtown to have some food, drinks and take another photo showing off the facial hair.

If you’re interested to learn more about their cause or donate money, click here.