The Healing Our First Responders Initiative is a year-long healing program that provides first responders the opportunity and time to recover, care for, and connect with themselves to cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday work, now exacerbated by the fear and unknown of COVID-19.
As the first individuals on scene to often traumatic incidents requiring life-or-death decisions to be made quickly, first responders are exposed to incredible stressors which take an accumulating toll on their mental health.
Studies estimate that 30 percent of first responders develop some type of behavioral health condition, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and suicidality. A startling 37% of fire and emergency medical services professionals have contemplated suicide, which is nearly 10 times the rate of American adults in general, and in the United States, more firefighters and police officers die from suicide than in the line of duty. Across disciplines, first responders have an increased occurrence of substance abuse, as well.
During days that are filled with pain, grief and loss, many first responders cope using denial, minimizing, and compartmentalizing. This group of professionals is often the last to ask for help because of their need to put others first in their efforts to protect us all. The physical demands of the job, fear and feeling of exposure due to COVID-19, and weight of personal concerns require top-of-the-line healing and supportive care during and after this global emergency, which is what Healing Our First Responders addresses.
First responders, including law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters and dispatchers are invited to participate through a nomination process or sponsorship.
Through the on-campus program and comprehensive curriculum, participating first responders will find a renewed sense of purpose; tools that enable processing of grief and beginning healing; and a sense of deep gratitude from the communities they serve.