UNSPOKEN: Mental health help for first responders

Local News

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The worst day of your life is just another day on the job for first responders but that doesn’t mean the trauma doesn’t make a lasting impact on the men and women in uniform.

“We might seem like we’re really calm on the scene and it’s not bothering us but it may bother us when we get back to the station,” said Mike Foley of the Springfield Fire Rescue.

Different calls bring on different circumstances, forcing the first responders to face many situations.

“We get calls of babies not breathing, house fires, people burning in house fires, wrecks, mangled bodies. It’s just a lot of stuff they see on a day to day basis,” said Springfield Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Eddins.

To help cope with the mental health effects, Panama City Fire Chief Alex Baird says local chiefs came up with a plan.

“About two or three years ago, the fire chiefs in Bay County got together and we’ve all agreed we’d put together a Critical Instant Stress Management Team,” Baird said.

After getting back from a call, the men and women on shift will debrief and talk about what they just witnessed.

“When somebody has a problem we call the number of the sheet we have and they send somebody over right away, usually within an hour,” Eddins said.

This plan also includes education for the firefighters.

“The loneliness or staying away from guys. We’re taught to look out for that sort of stuff, to listen to keywords and to make sure that even talking to family members, telling wives, hey we had a bad call. Keep an eye on your husband,” said Lieutenant Billy Mixon of Panama City Fire.

So even if it may seem like the men and women on the scene are a little cold-hearted, it’s actually the exact opposite.

“It’s not that we’re heartless and we don’t have any feelings for the people who are going through their worst time but it’s we just deal with it a little bit different,” Foley said.

And even though their jobs are responding to emergency calls, they don’t like seeing the negative outcomes.

“Everybody’s human. We don’t want to see people get hurt just like anybody else and it’s never good,” said Jordan May of the Springfield Fire Department.

Chief Baird says he encourages all who sacrifice so much to speak up when they need help.

“We’re all brothers and sisters here. We’re all dealing with the same thing,” Baird said.

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