Emergency responders who arrive on scenes first can face the same issues that members of the military may face. The 6th annual Mental Health Summit at USI is linking these professionals to others like themselves and several mental health resources.
“It can start affecting you mentally and emotionally,” says Evansville Fire Department Peer Support Member Kim Garrett.
“We are just coming around in the last few years realizing just how crucial mental health is and behavioral health is for first responders, firefighters, police and EMT’s.”
For first responders they usually question how much trauma they will experience in their shift. Being the help that people rely on in an emergency can still impact a person who is trained.
“The first responders in the community and surrounding areas they also need this information. There are programs available that assist them as well,” says USI’s Assistant Director of Veteran, Military and Family Resource Center Joel Matherly.
“Processing is painful. It is the ugly truth about the circumstances by which you dealt with in your life that does not feel good,” says Army veteran and guest speaker Kevin Zimmerman.
Members of the military say the stigma over P.T.S.D. and mental health has changed to help and include more people.
“That is why I am so grateful for the mental health community because those are professionals who have been trained to navigate you through that to deal with that pain. They have you put that pain in it’s proper perspective in your life so that you can then rise above the pain and live a holistic lifestyle,” says Zimmerman.
“Unfortunately we have had a lot of issues with the Evansville Fire Department in the last few years. We had some major events,” says Garrett.
A Peer Support Team with the Evansville Fire Department is going into their third year. The group offers support services and visits first responders quickly after they work a traumatic event.
“I’ve had a couple people say to me, “It was really nice to see one of the peer support team members there. It’s like we didn’t know what to do, but it’s like as soon as we saw a peer support team member there it was just like okay, everything is going to be okay,”” says Garrett.