How can we design for firefighter mental health?

In times of disaster, the first responder on the scene is often the firefighter. Every day, firefighters are faced with fatal injuries, hostile situations, life-threatening fires, and deadly accidents. These daily encounters are stressful, traumatic events that make firefighters increasingly vulnerable to a host of behavioral conditions, including PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

According to the University of Phoenix, 85% of all first responders surveyed have experienced symptoms related to mental health issues. Another study completed in 2018 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests firefighters are at greater risk of dying by suicide than in the line of duty. Nevertheless, the mental health of firefighters is often put on the back burner.

Most departments have access to some form of behavioral health services. Despite this, these resources are seldomly used. Why? The Ruderman Family Study refers to bravado on the job, embarrassment about needing help, stigmas regarding mental health in general, and feelings of isolation as reasons firefighters choose silence when it comes to their symptoms. It is perceptibly easier to “bury feelings” than face potential ridicule, judgment, or derision from peers. As design professionals focused on health and wellness, we have curated some suggestions to inspire fire departments to use thoughtful design to create highly-functional stations, conducive to the holistic well-being of our first responders.

Incorporating simple strategies like biophilic elements, stress relief areas, and social zones, our firefighters will have an environment to decompress and relax, improving their mental health, and creating a safe space to ask for help if necessary.


Natural Lighting

Stress Relieving Zones

Social Zones

Project contact
tim wiley
project manager
513 254 9821