Firefighters are at increased risk for suicide. The evaluation of correlates of suicide risk among firefighters is necessary to inform evidence-based prevention efforts. Firefighters are chronically exposed to traumatic events and sleep disturbances (e.g., shift work) given the nature of the occupation. Thus, the aims of this study were to examine (a) the association of sleep disturbances with suicide risk among firefighters after controlling for occupational stress, trauma load, anxiety symptoms, and depressive symptoms and (b) whether mindfulness moderates the association of sleep disturbances with suicide risk.
Participants were 865 firefighters working for a fire department located in a large city in the southern USA. Hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted.
Findings indicated that firefighters who reported greater sleep disturbances reported increased risk of suicide (β = .19, p < .001), after controlling for covariates. Moderation analyses indicated that higher levels of the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness (β = − .15, p < .001) and nonjudging of inner experiences (β = − .23, p < .001) as well as overall mindfulness (β = − .10, p < .01) significantly reduced the magnitude of the association of sleep disturbances with suicide risk. Conversely, the observing facet of mindfulness (β = .17, p < .001) strengthened the association between sleep disturbances and suicide risk.
Preventive interventions for suicide among firefighters might incorporate evidence-based sleep interventions and mindfulness-based practices with an emphasis on improving skills in acting with awareness and accepting without judgment.