Local law enforcement focus on mental health of first responders

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 9:53 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Mental health during the global pandemic continues to be an ongoing issue and topic of conversation. First responders typically face a number of stressors beyond what the general public experiences. Local agencies are working together to break the negative stigma of reaching out for help.

Mental illness affects everyone in one way or another, including those who protect and serve our communities every single day.

“We go to people’s worst day in their entire lives usually, so we see a variety of things that are hard to comprehend,” Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Derek Reid said.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, first responders experience a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Reid added, “If people don’t use healthy coping mechanisms and don’t talk to one another and normalize conversations when they’re struggling with something, they usually push that down, and then it manifests in other ways.”

Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, and numerous other agencies are part of the Northern Nevada Peer Support Network. It’s designed to provide a safe space surrounding mental health for first responders.

“They start all of a sudden realizing that this did affect me in a way that I didn’t realize, and by seeing my peers talk about it, it’s more of a comfort zone for me, a safe zone. I can start talking about it,” WCSO Sheriff Darin Balaam said.

Steve Nicholas, the in-house clinician for TMFR said, “I’m not waiting for somebody to call saying that they’re struggling, I go to the station, I do station rotations. It’s having conversations that normalize health, not illness.”

These law enforcement organizations stress to their employees and you at home that it’s OK to not be OK.

Sheriff Balaam added, “If you shed a tear it doesn’t mean that you’re weak, it means that you’re human and it means that we’re feeling things that everybody else feels.”

Life can be difficult and challenging, especially right now. But in times of trouble, help is within reach; all you have to do is ask.

For more information on resources and tools for first responders regarding mental health, click here.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with stress, anxiety, grief, or other illnesses, support is available 24/7. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also use the Crisis Text Line by texting “CARE” to 741741.

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