Victoria must pass laws to recognise that firefighters have developed post-traumatic stress from working in the line of duty, a union says.
The call follows the release of a report, prepared for the UFU, which says firefighters may be at higher risk of committing suicide, given the psychological impact of the job.
"Given the psychological impact of firefighting, higher prevalence of PTSD, depression, anxiety and alcohol or drug use, there is a probability that firefighters may be more likely to commit suicide," says the report, released on Monday.
UFU Victorian secretary Peter Marshall says it wants the state government to introduce legislation recognising post-traumatic stress as being a workplace illness for firefighters, saying its world-first introduction in Canada has led to more firefighters coming forward seeking counselling.
"Firefighters are experiencing a very high level of post-traumatic stress and, at the same time, the support systems that were put in place, were put in place in the late `80s and they haven't met contemporary needs," Mr Marshall told reporters on Monday.
He said post-traumatic stress is an ever-increasing illness within firefighting, and follows changes to the role of firefighters.
Since 2001, firefighters now also respond to medical emergencies, including suicides, child deaths and crime-scene clean-ups.
He said legislation introduced in Edmonton, Canada, recognised the disorder as being a workplace illness for firefighters.
"A lot of firefighters don't know how to access the system," he said.
MFB leading firefighter Danny Ward says firefighters can be reluctant to seek help.
"They all think they're a little bit tough and they don't need that help," Mr Ward told reporters.
"We've lost a few through suicide. I'm not saying the job was the greatest impact on that, but certainly it would have had some sort of impact on some of them."
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan noted how the state had pushed through the second-largest budget for funding fire services.
"I reject absolutely any assertion that whatever might be the matters in the report, which the union has commissioned, in any way shape or form, are the result of or an outcome from so-called budgetary matters," he told reporters.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.