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    Default Antidepressants / hiring

    I'm currently an aspiring firefighter, still making my way through the earliest preparatory stages of seeking a badge. I know I have a long road ahead of me, and resources like this site have proven to be an invaluable starting point.

    While I am physically healthy, my doctor has recommended that I take anti depressants to address some moderate depression. To be clear, my symptoms do not involve serious red flags like suicide or an inability to get out of bed in the morning: I'm trying to address some chronic insomnia and a persistent low mood. While I have no problem with taking medication for this, much as I would take antibiotics for an infection, or being straightforward and honest about my treatment if I make it to orals, I am curious about what kind of a reaction I might face. I'm assuming that I'll be expected to provide a complete medical history at some point and that such information would come out. Can I expect this to be a real hot button issue, one that I'm better off avoiding by not seeking treatment, considering that it is not disabling?

    On a broader note, what are some general policies that departments have relating to active firefighters taking anti depressants? I can only imagine that the job gets tough sometimes, are there major repercussions for firefighters who seek ongoing treatment?

    I found one link on the subject in a Google search I did which led me to an 8~ year old archived post on this forum, with a fairly vague set of responses. I did not find anything more recent searching specifically on these forums, so I figured I'd ask. I'm really not sure if I'm making a big deal out of nothing, but this is an issue with its own stigma attached so I wanted some clarification.

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    On a recent physical the doc actually told me that antidepressants are usually an immediate disqualifier. Unless you can provide proof of a string of serious issues, such as multiple family members dying, loss of job and/or home, wife/husband ran away with someone else, etc. But a STRING of those. Even then it would probably be hard, as he said even soldiers coming back with PTSD, while being shown much sympathy, they are not given much sympathy in regards to getting a job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by narkan View Post
    On a broader note, what are some general policies that departments have relating to active firefighters taking anti depressants? I can only imagine that the job gets tough sometimes, are there major repercussions for firefighters who seek ongoing treatment?

    I found one link on the subject in a Google search I did which led me to an 8~ year old archived post on this forum, with a fairly vague set of responses. I did not find anything more recent searching specifically on these forums, so I figured I'd ask. I'm really not sure if I'm making a big deal out of nothing, but this is an issue with its own stigma attached so I wanted some clarification.
    Where I'm at, most departments that are a decent size have shrinks and Employee Assistance Programs. It is easier to have ANY type of employee having a hard time with life take a low dose low impact antidepressant rather than have them self medicate with alcohol (or worse) and/or worsen their issues. With that said, it might not be a bad idea to consult with your doctor to get the wording of his write up to read more along the lines of the low mood resulting from insomnia as low dose antidepressants are often used for the treatment of other conditions like insomnia and erectile dysfunction. Basically, you want it to read as though you were treating the insomnia and that is the primary diagnosis (which is a likely the cause as anyone who is sleep deprived isn't going to be the brightest person).

    As for the stigma, personally I don't agree with it but I think it is always going to be there in a professions of Type A's (not to say we should be hiring severe bipolar people and people with schizophrenia). However, the brain is a big organ with a lot of mechanisms and can become "sick" or out of whack just like anything else. You would not attach a stigma to someone who is hypothyroid and needs to take a medicine for that.

    So I guess the best advice, which you've probably already heard, would be to exhaust all natural treatments such as exercise, diet, fulfilling hobbies, sleep studies etc. If there is still no explainable causes or "triggers" consult with your doctor. Good luck man.

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    The OP is trying to get a job. The members which have a job can use a Employee Assiatance Program.

    He isn't an employee.

    Most physicals and health backgrounds would show that you are on these meds. Blood work profiles would indicate this too, if the new applicant gets that far on being hired.

    As we have said before there are more folks trying to gets a job who are not on naything and have great clean records.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

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    How does one do a health background. What database is there that shows what meds a person is taking or has taken? Also as far as bloodwork I could be wrong but I don't see how that would show, if it's an ssri it's going to be serotonin levels which everyone already has.

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    Yes, antidepressants will have a HUGE impact on you getting hired in the fire service. It will hurt you not only in the medical examination, but also in the pre-employment psych exam. this is a HUGE red flag.

    Paul Lepore
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    These responses are discouraging :/

    Quote Originally Posted by Lucky2 View Post
    Even then it would probably be hard, as he said even soldiers coming back with PTSD, while being shown much sympathy, they are not given much sympathy in regards to getting a job.
    Just for the sake of argument, I'd point out that PTSD in returning vets often address issues of a much more serious extreme than something like chronic poor sleep quality. That's not an excuse nor does it justify the stigma associated with the condition, but understandably that's something that a fire department can't afford to take chances on.

    However, the brain is a big organ with a lot of mechanisms and can become "sick" or out of whack just like anything else. You would not attach a stigma to someone who is hypothyroid and needs to take a medicine for that.
    I totally agree. It's a bit unfortunate to hear that being open and honest about seeking treatment for mild symptoms that do not relate to my ability to do any job is likely to be more of a hindrance than anything else. I've always been a bad sleeper and that's never prevented me from being productive at any of the high stress jobs I've had over the last 7~ years, or in maintaining a strong exercise regimen. This is purely something that I'm considering as a recommendation from my doctor to address what she perceives to be something I shouldn't have to deal with. As for the mood, that's really once again something I never really thought to address, but I can appreciate the validity of some of the observations she's made. I'd argue it's more a function of having to work a fairly dull desk job for as long as I have to make rent while I sort out my future/school and all that stuff.

    Either way, I'll just decline taking anything for now and keep doing what I'm doing. I'd rather do whatever it takes to better my chances of making it (within reason of course).

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    Why don't you try ambien or another sleep medication to treat your insomnia and perhaps your mood will improve?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue601 View Post
    Why don't you try ambien or another sleep medication to treat your insomnia and perhaps your mood will improve?
    Sleep aids really have not had a measurable effect. A higher doses they will knock me out, but I'll still wake after a few hours and have poor sleep quality.

    I don't really want to have to derail this thread into a medical 20 questions, but the anti depressants are basically a treatment that's being considered because all "lesser" treatments like sleeping pills have been tried. Before I considered it, I just wanted to fully understand what the impact such a decision might have on my ability to be hired.

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulLepore View Post
    Yes, antidepressants will have a HUGE impact on you getting hired in the fire service. It will hurt you not only in the medical examination, but also in the pre-employment psych exam. this is a HUGE red flag.

    Paul Lepore
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    www.aspiringfirefighters.com
    I am a volunteer firefighter who takes them, along with meds for my documented panic disorder.

    I'm going to school to hopefully get a full time job as a Paramedic with a nearby cities fire department.

    This news of yours is not good for me. I wonder if I could find a way to determine if that will affect me before I spend the rest of the time working towards a degree that I'm immediately disqualified for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vrscdx View Post
    I am a volunteer firefighter who takes them, along with meds for my documented panic disorder.

    I'm going to school to hopefully get a full time job as a Paramedic with a nearby cities fire department.

    This news of yours is not good for me. I wonder if I could find a way to determine if that will affect me before I spend the rest of the time working towards a degree that I'm immediately disqualified for.
    I would have to say that the chance of being a Paramedic with a documented panic disorder is somewhere in the magnitude of slim to none. Actually in my opinion your chances of getting a job in EMS or Fire is less than that of the original poster.

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    The job of a firefighter is very stressful. It can be very emotionally challenging for someone who has never had any problems sleeping or for someone who has a history of panic attacks. That is why fire departments conduct psychological and medical examinations. The job certainly does have some detrimental effects on people. Most departments do not want to take a chance on someone who has a prior history.

    To the poster who has a history of panic attacks. I rarely tell someone that this is not the field for them. I make a post and usually stop short of destroying someone's dreams. I try to provide the facts as I know them and let them come to their own conclusion. Additionally, I live and work in California which is one of the most difficult places in the country to land a job.

    I will say this though, a person with a history of panic attacks does not belong in the fire service. The minute a firefighter or paramedic loses his or her composure the scene will fall apart. This would be detrimental to the patient, your crew and to the fire and EMS departments. I highly suggest you rethink your choice of profession.
    I wish you good luck with your decision.
    Paul Lepore
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    Quote Originally Posted by paulLepore View Post
    The job of a firefighter is very stressful. It can be very emotionally challenging for someone who has never had any problems sleeping or for someone who has a history of panic attacks. That is why fire departments conduct psychological and medical examinations. The job certainly does have some detrimental effects on people. Most departments do not want to take a chance on someone who has a prior history.

    To the poster who has a history of panic attacks. I rarely tell someone that this is not the field for them. I make a post and usually stop short of destroying someone's dreams. I try to provide the facts as I know them and let them come to their own conclusion. Additionally, I live and work in California which is one of the most difficult places in the country to land a job.

    I will say this though, a person with a history of panic attacks does not belong in the fire service. The minute a firefighter or paramedic loses his or her composure the scene will fall apart. This would be detrimental to the patient, your crew and to the fire and EMS departments. I highly suggest you rethink your choice of profession.
    I wish you good luck with your decision.
    Paul Lepore
    Division Chief
    www.aspiringfirefighters.com
    I understand your point, respect your opinion, but in my situation specifically, you're wrong. I'm already a volunteer, the question (in my case) isn't whether I can perform the duties, but simply whether I would be hireable as a career. I understand you think the answer is no.

    Unfortunately, I would probably be faced with the same assumption you made, that since I have panic attacks, I would have one at a scene, lose my composure, and put everyone at risk. The fact is, with my panic disorder, doing my job as a volunteer helps me focus tremendously, and my panic is caused by "down-time" thoughts if I don't take medication, or forum threads like this!

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    I think there are two different questions here: Can you do the job? It sounds like you are already. And can you be hired on at career dept? Which this question seems to be the one you're not happy with the answer. As has been said by many people on this board, right now fire jobs are at a premium. At departments across the US there are hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants for a single position. Your situation isn't a black mark (like a criminal charge would be), but it is a valid concern for a department. They have to consider the safety (emotional and physical) of the citizens, other firefighters and you. When you have other well qualified candidates with absolutely no concerns, they'll probably lean that direction.

    Also, depending where you work, there can be a LOT of down time at a fire house. This is more hypothetical, but what's going to happen with your panic disorder with your have a shift (or two in a row) without a single call and you're trapped at the station with little or nothing to do? I don't have a panic disorder and I know I get fidgety if I don't even have a couple EMS runs in a shift.

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    What do the NFPA guidelines say for firefighter health qualifications? For what it's worth, here in FL, I've NEVER heard of someone being disqualified due to antidepressant medication. The disability act has moved heaven and earth to not allow discriminations such as this. Also, not every department does a psych test and/or a poly. I am NOT saying it is, or it is not a good idea to try and become a firefighter, I'm simply stating what I know about MY state. To everyone saying you would become disqualified, how many of you have ever heard of a candidate saying something along the lines of "Yea, they sent me the thanks but no thanks letter because I take SSRI medication"? I'm willing to bet none....

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    If antidepressants are a red flag what about a prescription for adderall?

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    Your best bet is to just be up front and honest during the hiring process, and possibly bring a note from the doctor prescribing said medication stating you are fit for duty in the fire service.

    Lately, I have been seeing more and more people get hired with various departments with alot bigger DQs than taking antidepressants.

    Best of luck to you in your career path. You have a long road ahead of you, but its well worth it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brennanutt View Post
    If antidepressants are a red flag what about a prescription for adderall?
    Yes I am curious to the answer of this as well, as I took it in high school, being 25 now and have not touched it since then

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    You can disagree with my opinion, however I have worked for a big city fire department that runs 60,000 calls per year. A panic attack while inside a building on a hose line not only endangers you, but more importantly the people you are supposed to be rescuing. The next concern would be for the crew who has to go in and rescue YOU.

    While someone with your medical condition could potentially work as a firefighter in a low impact department, you are absolutely putting the public, your crew and yourself at risk.
    Paul Lepore
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    Quote Originally Posted by paulLepore View Post
    You can disagree with my opinion, however I have worked for a big city fire department that runs 60,000 calls per year. A panic attack while inside a building on a hose line not only endangers you, but more importantly the people you are supposed to be rescuing. The next concern would be for the crew who has to go in and rescue YOU.

    While someone with your medical condition could potentially work as a firefighter in a low impact department, you are absolutely putting the public, your crew and yourself at risk.
    Chief, I was NOT saying that becoming a firefighter was a good, or wasn't a good idea, just simply stating that I've never heard of someone getting knocked out because of this. Including in my department, which runs 120k calls a year by the way :P

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    I take lexapro for anxiety and am looking to take the next open test. I don't have panic attacks and never have, I could stop taking it but wouldn't feel as good and just feel anxious when waking. I hope this would not disqualify me.

    As far as blood tests go, they would not be testing for an SSRI (testing for illegal drugs) so I seriously doubt they would find it. I am guessing they would find it in your medical records thou, especially if it payed for through insurance.
    To the people who are saying you can't do the job, I think that is ridiculous, sure some people are too mentally unstable to perform and too much of a liability. Don't forget that a large portion of america are on or have been on an SSRI and that a large percentage of fire fighters who have already been hired have probably started them after being hired and don't have to worry. I am not saying you will be hired because I don't know my self, I am thinking it might be a problem and hope it is not for both your sake and mine.

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    Donít say a damn thing about being on medications. Itís none of their business, itís not like you are going to collapse or be a danger to someone or the side effects will hurt your job performance. If you said you were on heart medication, it would be a different story. As long as you know that you can do the job, keep the medication to yourself. If the medication is controlling the issue, then there really is not an issue.

    I would just go to a Dr. that has never seen me before and ask him to do the pre hire physical and donít tell him you are on any meds.

    Most fire chiefs are most likely on antidepressants.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stcaf View Post
    Donít say a damn thing about being on medications. Itís none of their business, itís not like you are going to collapse or be a danger to someone or the side effects will hurt your job performance. If you said you were on heart medication, it would be a different story. As long as you know that you can do the job, keep the medication to yourself. If the medication is controlling the issue, then there really is not an issue.

    I would just go to a Dr. that has never seen me before and ask him to do the pre hire physical and donít tell him you are on any meds.

    Most fire chiefs are most likely on antidepressants.
    It's completely their business man. Meds can have varying degrees of side effects and if something should happen ON DUTY while you have those meds in your system some cities/municipalities may not cover you. Furthermore, you may get terminated for withholding information on your application and pre-hire information sheets if they did find out about the medication. Just be honest and forthright from the get-go. My .02
    -Rob
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    It is the Departments business, Pal!


    IF he gets far enough in the hiring process that he goes for a complete medical physical they are going to draw blood and lots of it. 6 vials and test for everything and if you are taking anything it is going to show up in the blood test!


    Most departments and their medical testing facilities require you to bring with you and list all medications you are on or have been on for the last year!

    Better be prepared to answer what is THIS in you system???
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

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    I'm gonna have to go with the /non of their business/ camp. I took welbutrin to stop smoking.. does that disqualify me? It's technically an anti depressant.. and hell, that was in the military.. when i was armed.
    Would they fire someone for being on anti depressants once they were hired? I doubt it. Most Fire Departments don't even fire someone when the pop dirty on a UA, they provide counseling.
    Sad that still in 2010 the world hasn't come around on mental health. Tough guys abound and will self medicate with booze and other 'accepted' vices, but refuse to see the benefits of good psychiatric assistance.
    I'd also look into your local state/city laws protecting against the disclosure of that information to employers.

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