Category Archives: Responder Resources

Articles on resources available specifically designed for first responders. It is our mission to share the critically needed resources for those who answer the call.

Balance in the Fire Life-Is it Possible?

I was blessed to have to the opportunity to share the message “Balance in the Fire Family Life-Is it Possible?” a webinar offered to the state of Indiana Fire Service. I have attached the PDF that was shared during the presentation.

If you would like to have this presentation given at your event, or your department, and/or broadcast live online. Please contact me:

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

 

Balance In the Fire Family Life2

The Rosecrance Florian Program

Want to learn more about firefighter behavioral health and what we can do about it? Here’s your opportunity:

If you have been following our posts, you all know that our mission is to encourage, inspire, & provide the critically needed resources for the members of the fire service.

And as a part of this mission, it requires that we learn about valuable programs available to first responders to assist them. This may not seem like much but anyone who has been in need has either had a bad experience or heard of someone who sought help and received poor treatment in the process. This should never happen and thus we strive to vet and verify that the services we recommend are going to treat our first responders with dignity and respect.

We had the honor and privilege of meeting Dan DeGryse at the IAFF Peer Support Certification Program in March of this year. I can honestly say that Dan’s sincerity and passion for this subject was truly genuine. I witnessed him continue his work at FDIC and have followed his work throughout the country.

If you are a firefighter in need: PTSD, substance abuse, and more then please consider The Rosecrance Florian Program as their program is designed and run by first responders. You can learn more here and contact Dan for more information below:

Daniel DeGryse B.A., CADC, CEAP, LAP/C

Director, Rosecrance Florian Program

Rosecrance Harrison Campus

3815 Harrison Ave.| Rockford, Illinois 61108

Direct: 815 387 2461| Fax: 815 391 5040

Cell: 312 833 0196

Email: ddegryse@rosecrance.org

View the Rosecrance Florian video for Firefighters and Paramedics

 
Check out the NEW Rosecrance Florian Program for Firefighters and Paramedics http://www.rosecrance.org/substance-abuse/florian-program/

In many cases, we are the first ones that see our brothers and sisters in need. We have seen that the fire service is lacking in training in the areas of addressing firefighter behavioral health. The Rosecrance Florian Symposium is an opportunity to learn more about how we all can help our brothers and sisters in need. Save the date and spread the word!

Register for the Rosecrance Florian Symposium at www.rosecranceflorian.org

 
Thanks again for supporting the mission of Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries!

God Bless,
Andy Starnes

We the Post Traumatic Souls

We the Post Traumatic Souls:

In most cases, the world looks upon its public servants with high regard. There are a few that abuse the position, tarnish its reputation, and damage the public’s trust. As a whole, less than ½ of 1% of public servants abuse their place of public trust. This is percentage better than doctors, lawyers, and even our clergy.

Yet, in the midst of such great trust and such great responsibility there is something that the public doesn’t see. They don’t see what we truly see. They don’t know the burden of the ghosts that haunt our spirits and how we are statistically dealing with these scars in self-destructive ways.

Firefighters, police, and first responders are suffering from PTSD, anxiety & depression, and the number of suicides is on the rise. Why is this so? Is it the one bad call that sets off a chain reaction of a personal firestorm? Or is it the cumulative stress of the things we see daily and then add our struggles that we face in our own lives?

The young woman whose life was taken too soon by a careless drunk driver…

The lifeless infant thrown to you as you arrive with passionate screams from the mother to save her child…

The constant exposure to death, tragedy, difficult personnel problems with no consistent sleep…

And when we do sleep is often interrupted by flashbacks, shaking, or jolted awake by the tones for another call for help…

The constant exposure of everyone else’s tragic circumstances does not leave the servant unscathed…

In fact, we often carry these personal moments with death us. Without our knowledge, their moments become part of us, begin to affect our daily actions and relationships, and soon our lives begin to unravel from the sheer stress and weariness of carrying the weight of too many losses.

This is where we begin…

Where we realize that their deaths and pain were not ours to own…

We need to understand our role was to help even if there was seemingly nothing we could do…

Our very presence brought assurance, comfort, and in some ways closure for others…

But when those who have lost loved ones, we do them a great disservice by our refusal to let them go…

For many who have lost those dear to them, they will always have a scar on their heart but yet they will move on…

For us to hold on to their pain, to relive it, to feel regret is to prevent the living from healing…

We don’t realize it, our subconscious repeats the incident, and hypervigilance seems to steal our peace…

But we must understand, when a funeral happens it is not for the dead but for the living…

So they may grieve, so they may heal, so they may say goodbye…
We the post traumatic souls refuse to let them go, the dead are restless as they constantly re-live their last moments in our minds…

We blame ourselves, we pour our pain away through prescriptions, alcohol, trying to cover the pain with poison…

When what we really need more than anything is peace…
Yet tragically, so many seek this peace by ending their own lives…

The desperation of the moment, the lack of sleep, and the stress of it all diminishes their focus and they believe the lie of the enemy that suicide is their solution…

And then they die not realizing that by their actions they have laid another restless soul upon another’s heart…

Their death and loss becomes another’s burden and we repeat this cycle…

So what do we do? How do we let go of all this pain and begin to heal?

Post-Traumatic Stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. Our bodies reacting with all of the symptoms are the effects of the collateral damage of catastrophes crashing through our attempts at resiliency. We need to realize that we are HUMAN! We need each other and we need help bearing these burdens. We need the peace of God in our hearts that comes not from this world but from a settled assurance that the overwhelming circumstances of our lives are reconciled. In Philippians, Paul reminds us to:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Did you hear that? “The peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This peace comes from knowing that we have been reconciled to God not because we are worthy, not because of anything we have done, but because we the broken and contrite have come to the foot of the cross and realized that the scar in our souls can only be healed by the one who loved us so much that He died for us.

Paul understood the burdens of a weary soul. He lived a life in which he persecuted, arrested, and had Christians murdered. He must have awoke many nights reliving those moments and feeling great sorrow for his past. Yet, He was able, by the grace of God, not only to move forward but to minister, to plant churches, and write most of the New Testament (to name a few of the mighty works God did through an imperfect and sinful man).

We need to realize, that no matter our past our pain and tragic moments are not meant to be our permanent address. Grief and sorrow have their purpose and we are meant to feel these emotions but we are not meant to dwell there forever. To do so is to reject the gift of God and create a prison of hell and torment while we are on earth and this is what the Devil would have us do.

“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (Lamentations 3:31-33).

The challenge we face as servants to our fellow man in their last moments is not to take ownership of them nor to let those moments own us. They do not define us but yet refine us. If we don’t seek help, these moments can collectively destroy us. We who have been greatly tested can either courageously share our testimony or we can become bitter and alone. We can take post-traumatic stress and as we heal in time can show post traumatic growth by ministering to others who suffer as we did. We can remember what we have been through but not relive it. We can look in the eyes of the hurting servant first responder and truthfully say “Many will tell you that they know how you feel but they don’t. However, I do know how you feel and I don’t have all the answers but I will listen, I will be here, and I will walk with you as you heal.”

May we all come to know the peace that passes understanding…

May we all have the courage to seek help in our broken moments…
May we all turn our tragic moments of pain into testimonies that we share to help those experiencing the same…

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Please see our resources that are available on the Firefighter May-Day Page for more information on how to receive help or how to help others:

Firefighter May-Day

Minimum Standards Maximum Requirements

Minimum Standards Maximum Requirements:
 
As a firefighter who has served many years, many can say that they have seen numerous examples of firefighters and employees. A firefighter can be defined as one who lives out their calling consistently, gives without though of recognition, and is always working to improve their capabilities to serve their fellow man.
 
An employee, may be considered as one who only seeks to meet the minimum standards. In many cases there are those who somehow maintain the title of firefighter yet fail to do the work necessary to be a firefighter. They wear a uniform, they look the part, yet when the call for service comes they are often found hiding from work, producing excuses why they could not complete the job required of them, and all the while they never claim any accountability nor responsibility for their negligence.
 
We can see the same type of examples in our daily lives: in our faith, in our families, and our commitment to our communities. In this way, we see many individuals refuse to believe or walk away from God due to the minimum standard Christians or those who claim the title yet abuse the calling they fail to live out. As James tells us “Faith without works is useless” (James 2:20b). People need to see our faith and see it lived out in our lives not just in church.
 
Many of us were either raised in church or know about God but there is large percentage of firefighters today who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. There are many firefighters today who have been seeking a relationship with Christ but have been “put off” by “believers” whose hypocrisy shined through their false beliefs. There are also many firefighters who are hurting, suffering in their marriages, and many others issues who feel lost. They are desperately seeking hope yet many Christians fail to share the hope of Jesus Christ with them.
 
With that being said, just what does it mean to have accepted Christ?
 
How do we as firefighters who save others become saved by Jesus?
 
But what if your heart is the one in need of rescue?
 
What if after reading all of this you are feeling a great burden and pain within your soul?
 
Many of us today would like to have a relationship with Jesus but have hesitated or walked away from our faith. The three primary reasons that people often cite for not believing in Jesus are as follows:
 
1) Anger at God: Many have suffered greatly and feel angry towards a God who would allow such circumstances or tragedy to have occurred in their lives.
 
2) Claim without consistency: Many have felt the desire to have a relationship with Jesus but have fallen away because of the hypocrisy of other believers. They look upon those who claim to be Christians and see how they woefully misrepresent the faith that they claim.
 
3) Too many unanswered questions: Many individuals have pursued a relationship with Christ but have many tough questions that few have been able to answer such as: If God is a loving God how could He send someone to hell, Why do bad things happen to good people?, and the list goes on.
 
In our lives as firefighters we can all relate to these questions. We can recall the times when a child died, we lost a friend in the line of duty or to suicide, and or a tragic circumstance occurred that hurt us greatly all of which can contribute to becoming angry. We can understand the first reason for unbelief, because if we are truly honest, we have all experienced it. We have all doubted, all cried out in anguish, and begged God for answers but why are we really angry?
 
Because we all desperately want answers!
 
We save people yet we were often unable to save those in our lives that have been lost. We blame God and shake our fists at Him crying out Why God? Yet who are we really angry at? If we took the time to reflect we may find that our anger is truly directed at ourselves. We blame God because we cannot bear the weight of such a burden. We hurt and feel that He has abandoned us in our plight. Yet in reality, He has never left us nor forsaken us. Many of us have dictated our faith rather than submitted to Jesus as Lord basically telling God that we would have followed God if God would just go our way.
 
The second reason why many individuals fail to believe in Jesus Christ is the hypocrisy of other Christians. One doesn’t have to look very hard to see this all around us. We see Pastors who have fallen from the pulpit due to sex scandals, Christians who are divorced or their marriage is in shambles, and we see those who claim to be Christians treating others around them harshly.
 
Yet, I would ask you to consider these words for a moment:
“Never judge a belief system by those who choose to abuse it” (Ravi Zacharias).
 
What do I mean by this statement? If we as firefighters base our reason for not believing in Jesus Christ due to the hypocrisy of others what would happen if we applied that same logic to our professional lives? Would we refuse to go to work as firefighters because there are hypocritical firefighters within our firehouses? Would we stop working out because there are out of shape individuals in our work-out groups or gyms? Would we stop being faithful in our marriages because the divorce rate is so high? I believe we have come full circle on this point. We now see that we cannot base our reason for unbelief on the hypocrisy of others. We have to base our reason for belief on our own hearts, minds, and souls. We must base our belief on our personal decision to do so and not our circumstances, our hurts, or our anger at those who claim to be Christians.
 
The third reason that is often cited for not believing is one of the most difficult to face. This is the fact that there are too many unanswered questions in regards to our faith. Perhaps, you have wondered about these difficult questions? As firefighters, we see a problem and we respond with a well-trained, properly equipped, group of individuals who rapidly mitigate a chaotic situation. But how do we respond so well to the unanswered questions of others? When their house is burning down, their loved one lies lifeless on the floor, or their child is choking we respond with intentional actions that resort in resolution because of our knowledge, our training, and our passion to help others. What if we applied this same logic to this reason for unbelief? What if we looked upon those unanswered questions of life and begin to study God’s word, got involved with a group of believers who can guide us, and began to seek answers in prayer? How do you think our mindset might change?
 
If you have walked through these questions and feel that a tug at your heart please don’t ignore it. God is reaching through the flames of your life and is pleading with you to take His hand. He is saying to you “I love you so much that my Son died on a cross so that you may live. And He lives today and will come into your heart and forgive you! He will walk with you through your life. He will give you comfort in the midst of the fires of life. And He will set you free from any burden that is holding you prisoner if you will believe in Him”
 
This is the point where we take action. It is not where we feel inspired and only go thus far. Take the next step and accept Christ, rededicate your life, renew your marriage, reconcile your differences, and look to these resources to get you started on your journey:
 
Fellowship of Christian Firefighters International offers free bible studies, access to Bibles, free daily devotionals, resources on how to start a local chapter or small group and so much more! President Craig Duck is a retired DC firefighter who has a passion for ministry and is doing tremendous things for the fire service from hosting online Bible Studies, men’s retreats, a yearly marriage conference, and they just released a new outreach Bible called “Rescued.” Please check them out and be encouraged knowing that there many brothers and sisters in this wonderful organization who can help you in your faith journey no matter what mile marker you are on.
 
http://www.fellowshipofchristianfirefighters.com/index.cfm?Section=1
 
247 Commitment by Lori and Dan Mercer: This organization was started by Lori Mercer as she shared a blog post about the challenges of fire family marriages over four years ago. They have since grown to a thriving online community for fire wives, numerous resources for marriage and family, the honor guard for men, and the new book release which can be considered a standard operating guideline for fire families entitled Honor and commitment. There is even a free book for fire families available. Please check this site out, as I am friends with Lori and Dan, and I personally believe in their mission. They are doing tremendous things for fire families from commitment weekends, to developing resources, and speaking at conferences.
 
http://247commitment.org/about-247-commitment/
 
God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Why Suffering?

Why Suffering?

Have you ever suffered at the hands of another? 

Have you been ridiculed, slandered, and belittled for no reason other than the individuals ability be hateful?

Have you felt anger well up inside your soul? 

Have you felt the need to respond in a physical or verbal way that brings resolution to your own personal injustice?

In these moments, it is the greatest challenge that our principles will face. In the moment when we are attacked, if we choose to respond as they do then are we any different?

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1: 28b-30

How does one conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel when our hearts are in anguish? 

If we ‘repay anyone evil for evil'(Romans 12:17), are we on the road to becoming the very person that has injured us? Have we ever considered why people lash out in the first place? 

Have we considered why so many attack good people and those good people suffer greatly? 

Reflect on these questions for a moment:

Who do we claim to be? 

Do we claim to be followers of Christ? 

Do we claim to be loving husbands/wives, loving fathers/mothers, and loving members of our community?

Do we claim to be good firefighters?

What is the litmus test to judge whether we are who we say we are?

If we react in anger on the road, with a christian and fire service sticker on our car, what judgement do others make about our actions in that moment?

If we ‘repay evil for evil’ in our moments of anguish and the world broadcasts our incident and sits in judgement upon our actions; what do we think they will determine about the sincerity of our faith?

If our anger controls us and we right the wrongs committed against us; how does our actions affect a young aspiring leader who has been carefully studying our lives?

Jesus reminds us of the higher call placed upon our lives:

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:46)

The challenge before us is in the depth of our devotion. How quickly we will fail in the fiery moments of torment if our devotion to God is shallow and insincere. The Apostle Paul wrote about suffering for God many times in his letters. He didn’t merely write words for us to follow. He wrote out of his great suffering. This is one example of his suffering, yet he stood firm: 

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Paul obviously suffered greatly for his faith, but consider what he was called to do. He was called by God to go and preach the Gospel. 

What are we called to do? 

Have we forgotten of all the leaders who have gone before us? 

Did they not face great opposition, persecution, and adversity? 

They suffered because they knew the goal was worth the cost. They took their eyes off worldly comforts and realized the impact of their daily actions would pay generational dividends.  

Let us remember that our conduct reflects our conscience and our daily walk shows who we truly are. 

The true test of one’s character is not during fair weather but when the storms of opposition rain down. It is then that we see those who are superficial and not strong. It is then when we see how strong our faith truly is. So let us remember:

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Philippians 1:27-28

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

Rescuing Our Own

Rescuing our own- “Why don’t those who save others call for help?”

The United States is seeing increasing numbers of first responders suffering from behavioral health despite the increasing of availability of behavioral health resources. Statistical data has shown an increase in first responders suffering from these behavioral health issues such as: anxiety and depression, PTSD, alcohol & substance abuse, and increased risk of suicide. First Responders are exposed to occupational stress at a higher level than many other occupations and we respond differently to potentially traumatic events. Could our responder mind-set and our culture be contributing to the increase in the behavioral health issues?

Consider this: “The American fire service has been rocked in recent years of apparent suicide clusters in large, metro fire departments” (Gist, Taylor, Raak. p.2). “One study that examined North Carolina firefighters found the following: “Compared with professional firefighter line-of-duty deaths (LODDs), suicides occurred more than three times as often” (Salva p.1).

What do we really know about first responders and occupational stress exposure?

As part of the Tampa summit in 2004, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) identified 16 life safety initiatives in order to improve firefighter health and safety. Fire Life Safety Initiative 13 was born out of the collective research that identified the increasing number of behavioral health issues in the fire service.  The Suicide and Depression Summit held in 2011, which was sponsored by the NFFF, expounded upon FLSI #13 and identified further areas of needed study pertaining to suicide and depression in the ranks of first responders.

To further emphasize the importance of this problem consider the following examples:

Consider the case of Kyle Lenn, a 23 year member of the fire service, and considered one of the most progressive fire chiefs of his time. He was actively involved in the Everyone Goes Home program, active in the Nebraska Fire Chief’s Association, and more. On the morning of January 31rst 2012 his body was found hanging from a bridge from an apparent suicide. His death shocked the fire service community and numerous other deaths like Lenn’s have brought attention to behavioral health problems in the fire service (Wilmoth,).

Or this quote from Clifford F. Carlisle, Mountain Brooke Fire Department-

“Over the years, one of our firefighters, killed his wife and then himself. Another firefighter transferred from a larger department, worked several years, resigned and committed suicide. Others have been involved in a variety of altercations, domestic problems, and stress related episodes and illnesses. One employee who appears to have become a recluse, retired and left the country. His problems followed him overseas” (Shantz, p.1).

In my personal experience, I have lost several friends to suicide and two of those were firefighters. We as first responders experience tragedy, loss, pain, and are with the trauma level hospice worker who compassionately cares for others in their last moments. These experiences are often embedded in our memories and many suffer post-traumatic stress disorder due to this.

 

Consider the statistical data below concerning first responders/firefighters by an organization who counsels and treats first responders:

  • As much as 37% of the fire service suffers from PTSD.
  • “As a result, some estimates put alcohol abuse in fire departments at upwards of 25 – 30%, approaching two or three times the incidence of alcohol abuse in the general population (7 – 9%).”
  • As much as 30% of firefighters suffer from depression.

 

(Messina http://americanaddictioncenters.org/firefighters-alcohol-will-rescue-heroes/)

 

Yet, in the face of these overwhelming circumstances there is help for those who save others. The question remains, with behavioral health resources becoming increasingly available, why are first responders not reaching out for help?  In regards to firefighter behavioral health, Fire Life Safety Initiative 13 was developed to provide psychological support and counseling to all firefighters. Due to the suicide clusters, as mentioned in the introduction, this lead to the Suicide and Depression Summit. In Baltimore Maryland 2008, the first FLSI 13 Consensus meeting was held which focused on potentially traumatic events. This consisted of six different research organizations and six different fire service organizations that focused on identifying the resources needed to create behavioral health assistance that would effectively serve firefighters and their families (Gist, Taylor, Raak. P 5.).

The researchers at the Suicide and Depression Summit were the top individuals in the fields of PTSD, Suicide, and Employee Assistance Programs, and Firefighter Health Research. These different organizations were formed into consensus groups that would identify “behavioral health resources, improve upon member assistance programs, and address self-help and peer support” (Gist, Taylor, Raak. p.5). These groups focused on providing programs and support to firefighters/first responders that have been previously been identified into two areas of need:

  • The High Risk Responder: The high risk responder is a first responder who has serves in a disaster role for long durations. As studies have shown that these individuals are at a greater risk (as high as 34%) for developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). Studies also have shown that there is a “relationship between the duration of traumatic exposure and the development of posttraumatic stress” (Castellano, Plionis p.328). Consider the another perspective of the High Risk Responder: A first responder, firefighter or police officer who serves in very active areas for long shifts, works overtime, and works a second job at another busy job. As public servants, can we see a correlation between serving on the busiest unit, company, or force and the development of post-traumatic stress?
  • Rescuer-Victim Group: The Rescuer-Victim group was identified through studies after Hurricane Katrina. Many of the first responders became victims to the incident themselves. They suffered from three critical incident stress incidents simultaneously: the actual disaster itself, the failure or breakdown of the emergency response organizations, and the personal and ethical crisis that the responders faced during the disaster. These first responders had to choose between obeying their sworn duty and protecting/saving their family. In my experience, this group still exists today without the presence of a disaster event. I believe that the Rescuer-Victim Group occurs when a first responder must choose between dealing with their own personal problem, the failure of support from their organization, and the collateral damage that is thereby caused within their families. This is one reason why many first responders are not seeking help. As they are paralyzed by their problem, know they must do something, but often fail due to the possibility of losing their job, not being aware of the resources available, and the failure of their organizations to adequately train their employees to assist those in crisis.

The Suicide and Depression Summit’s efforts developed the following programs to assist firefighters: After Action Review, Psychological First Aid, Screening and Assessment Materials, Behavioral Health Assistance Program standards, Web training in evidence supported intervention for clinicians treating fire service members, and Support for effective peer assistance efforts (Gist, Taylor, Raak. p.8). Many of these programs already existed but were not developed with the fire service specifically in mind due to the complexities of our culture and the need for peer support. Since then the following areas have been developed and are available through the National Fallen Firefighters website under the Everyone Goes Home section. If you are not currently aware of these resources, I strongly suggest after reading this article that you visit their website and begin the journey to learning how to rescue our fellow brothers and sisters.

After Action Review:

After Action Review (AAR) has been practiced by the military for years. Under the Everyone Goes Home program the After Action Review is a training section that evaluates what the first responders just did after every call, every training, or every significant incident. The goal is to take the ‘who’ out of it and to learn why what happened. This is an immediate debriefing involving only the members involved. This can be implemented with ease in any organization regardless of size, staffing, or resources. The leadership can begin discussing calls each day and monitoring their co-workers behavioral health in order to prevent or reduce the increasing rate of behavioral health issues in emergency services today. (https://www.fireherolearningnetwork.com/LoggedIn/Training.aspx?ProgramId=16e11f1f-277a-

499f-ae50-228e796ccd29)

Psychological First Aid (PFA)

PFA is a form of emotional first aid. It has been studied and implemented since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The field application of this model was implemented on 9/11 to the members of the New Jersey Task Force One (NJTF-1). PFA consists of five phases or steps: assessment, stabilization, triage, communication, and follow-up connection. The implementation of PFA was found to be more successful through the use of peer counselors as they “fit the culture of law enforcement emergency personnel and lent credibility and familiarity to the counseling effort” (Castellano, Plionis, p.329).  PFA connects the first responder with “mutual support following high impact calls while enhancing daily performance and citizen satisfaction” (Gist, Taylor, Raak. p.7). It is designed for immediately after the incident which uses evidence based support designed by the US Department of Veterans to prevent the development of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD (Brymer M, Jacobs A, Layne C, Pynoos R, Ruzek J, Steinberg A, Vernberg E,Watson P. p.5). As firefighters, the doorway to assist them after an incident is through the assistance of peer counselors. If your organization currently offers training in critical incident stress management (individual and group counseling) I highly recommend that you attend this training in order to better care for those in your fellowship. After all, who sees the first sign of a ‘working fire’ inside of our lives if not our fellow firefighters that work with us 1/3rd of our lives?

A Multi-component CISM model augmented with peer-to-peer counseling:

Many departments employ the use of Critical Incident Stress Management to assist in managing first responder stress to Potentially Traumatic Events otherwise known as PTE’s. This Critical Incident Stress model consists of six components which are acute crisis counseling by peer counselors, an executive leadership program, a multi-disciplinary team, an acute traumatic stress group training, a 24-7 Hot-line for first responders, and a reentry program. Currently there are resources available through the NFFF for CISM training and many departments across the country have certified CISM teams. Does your organization have a CISM team? This is our 911 for our personal May-Day’s.  Does your organization have a Hot-line for those who need to counseling? If this isn’t the case consider the following numbers that can are available for first responders in crisis:

  • The Share the Load Program by The National Volunteer Firefighters Counsel: org/help1-888-731-FIRE FREE (3473)
    This free, confidential help line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to members of the fire, EMS, and rescue services and their families. Please see their video on the Warning Signs of Firefighter Behavioral Health:
  • Firefighter May-Day: Please visit bringingbackbrotherhood.org and click on the Firefighter May-Day page for a list of resources of trained professionals who can assist our fellow brothers and sisters.

The complexities of behavioral health equals further research is needed:

In regards to firefighter behavioral health. First, there is a limited amount of verifiable data available regarding firefighter suicides thus funding should be allocated to provide a better understanding.  Second, as the Suicide and Depression Summit recruited the top experts in the field the fire service should recruit the experts in the military who are already performing similar studies and programs pertaining to suicide. Those who encourage action in this field should be instructed to present their findings based on observable and verifiable data; not based on assumptions and personal experience.

The contributing factors for suicide in the fire service should be researched further focusing on elements of thwarted belongingness and personal contribution as they may contribute to higher risk of suicides (Gist, Taylor, & Raak p.22). Screening and intervention approaches should be created and designed specifically for the fire service. Such programs have been developed such as the TSQ-Trauma Screening Questionnaire as part of the FLSI #13 initiative. This is a tool that allows the supervisor to quickly determine whether or not an employee needs further care or assistance. It is valuable due to its simplicity and its similarity in how firefighters ‘size-up’ problems.

These programs should be preventative and intervention based while grounded in empirical data. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, suicide ideation program training, and behavioral health care training should be readily available and inexpensive to the fire service, its leaders, and the necessary heath care providers. Sadly, most firefighters aren’t aware of these programs and neither are their leaders. Peer support programs should consist in training members in addressing suicide. Each organization should follow a strategic plan of action similar to the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention which explains a more comprehensive approach to suicide prevention through education, screening and better medical care, and more available resources for the individual after they have been discharged to help re-acclimate them back into their daily life.  The materials for these trainings should be easily accessible along with a suicide hotline listed. The materials should be developed in cooperation with IAFF, IAFC, NVFC, and USFA. These organizations all are have significant influence on the fire service and through this partnership it would ensure a more successful implementation. All of these recommendations will be made possible only by allocating funds for their research and implementation.

Many firefighters and first responders do not readily seek help for their behavioral health problems due to a lack of knowledge of the resources currently available. As mentioned above, there are currently numerous resources available to first responders and firefighters such as the FLSI #13 resources which are based on the following programs: After Action Review, Psychological First Aid, Screening and Assessment Materials, Behavioral Health Assistance Program standards, and free web based training. Many departments currently employ the multi-disciplinary CISM approach which offers employees defusing’s, debriefings, and follow-up if needed after potentially traumatic events. The belief that firefighters don’t readily seek help isn’t based upon opinion; it is based on the numerous interviews with first responders, counselors, fire chiefs, and personal observations and interviews with those in my sphere of influence. The continual trend of not being aware of these resources lead to the writing of this article.

 

 We have identified the problem, now what?

We are constantly training to stay ready for the next challenge we may face. Let us ask ourselves, how well are we trained in saving our brothers and sisters from their own personal may-day? As a member of the emergency service world, let us ask us ourselves the following questions:

  • Does your organization currently offer any services for its members for behavioral health concerns such as: alcohol, substance abuse, depression, PTSD, counseling, and stress management?
  • What services do they currently offer?
  • Are you familiar with Fire Life Safety Initiative #13
  • Are you familiar with CISM-Critical Incident Stress Management
  • If you or someone you knew needed help in any of these areas would you know how to receive assistance?

How well were you able to answer the questions above? On average, most first responders are not aware of the resources their organization provides and are not aware of how to help someone or themselves in the event of a personal crisis. This identifies the need for training. As leaders, we should be just as well-trained in taking care of our people as we are proficient at providing services for our customers. There are internal customers and external customers. We need to take care of our own so they may thrive and provide even better service to our citizens. The incentive to the organizations for offering this training is reduced employee behavioral health issues which results in reduced medical expenses, longer careers due to better management of these behavioral health issues, and reduced cost to the employer by maintaining their workforce rather than firing/losing employees due to these issues. If we are to truly be accountable for the profession that we serve we should be well-trained at rescuing our own. The greatest save we may ever make could be the person next to us. Let us take up the challenge and not let our brothers and sisters lives burn down around them. Begin the rescue of our brothers and sisters today by beginning a personal commitment to learn more, become trained in these areas, and teach others to do the same.

May their cries for help go unanswered no more….

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

 

  [divider]

Works Cited:

Antonellis Jr. Paul J., Thompson. Denise A. A Firefighter’s Silent Killer: Suicide. Fire Engineering University. Penn well Publishing. (Pg.1) http://www.fireengineering.com/content/dam/fe/online-articles/documents/FEU/FEU-AntonellisDec12.pdf

Brymer M, Jacobs A, Layne C, Pynoos R, Ruzek J, Steinberg A, Vernberg E, & Watson P. Psychological First Aid. Field Operations Guide Second Edition. National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (p.5). retrieved from: http://www.kennedykrieger.org/sites/kki2.com/files/psychological-first-aid-final-complete-manual.pdf

Castellano, Cherie. Plionis, Elizabeth. (2006) Comparative Analysis of Three Crisis Intervention Models Applied to Law Enforcement First Responders During 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Oxford Journals. Retrieved from: http://triggered.clockss.org/ServeContent?url=http://btci.stanford.clockss.org%2Fcgi%2Fcontent%2Ffull%2F6%2F4%2F326

Ford, Travis. (2006). Building Support for Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives in Higher Education. Executive Leadership. Retrieved from: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/pdf/efop/efo38810.pdf

Gagliano, Anne. (2009). What Every Firefighter’s Spouse Should Know. Fire Engineering. Retrieved from:http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-162/issue-12/departments/fire-commentary/what-every-firefighter.html

Gist, Taylor, & Raak, (2011).Suicide Surveillance, Prevention, and Intervention Measures for the US Fire Service. Findings and Recommendations for the Suicide and Depression Summit. Retrieved from: http://lifesafetyinitiatives.com/13/suicide_whitepaper.pdf

Manning, William A. (2007). Fire Life Safety Initiatives. Everyone Goes Home Summit White Paper. Retrieved from: http://www.everyonegoeshome.com/summit/whitepapers.pdf

Nock, Matthew K. Joiner, Thomas. Berman, Alan L. (2011) Issues of Depression and Suicide in the Fire Service. Retrieved from: http://lifesafetyinitiatives.com/13/depressionsuicide_summary.pdf

Salvia, JS. (2008). “Suicide among North Carolina professional firefighters: 1984-1999.” Dissertation Abstracts International, 69.

Shantz, Mark. (2002) Effects of Work Related Stress on the Firefighter/Paramedic. EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF FIRE STAFF AND COMMAND. Retrieved from: http://www.emich.edu/cerns/downloads/papers/FireStaff/Stress,%20Fitness,%20Wellness/Effect%20of%20Work%20Related%20Stress%20on%20the%20Firefighter%20Paramedic.pdf

Wilmoth, Janet. Trouble in Mind. NFPA Journal. May 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.nfpa.org/newsandpublications/nfpa-journal/2014/may-june-2014/features/special-report-firefighter-behavioral-health

 

Answering the Call

As one soldiers on in sharing the love of Christ with others in the fire service there is a consistent theme in all humanity that we encounter. It is the encounter of the wounded and broken soul who has built walls around their heart in defense of the hurt in this world.

Their eyes seem to cry out the Psalmist words “My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:2

Their mannerisms and behaviors bear the scars of worry and anxiety. Anxiety has damaged their health, disrupted their productivity, causing them to negatively treat others, and has ultimately reduced their ability to trust in God.

This is the place where we meet others on the broken road to Christ. Unfortunately, many do more harm to them than good. Many people, offer short quick fix answers to their life long problems of pain and struggle. Many say they are willing to help but walk away when it becomes too personal.

The Fire service is in desperate need of encouragement. Disciples of Christ are needed to rise up and “answer us when we call.” (Psalm 20: 9) Men and women are broken, hurting, suffering, and in our traditional mentality we think that pride means we should not ask for help. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the fire service, we do nothing alone. Every aspect of our lives is based upon team concepts whether it be stretching a hose line, performing CPR, to taking care of our daily duties; we do these things together! Why should one who saves others who now finds themselves in desperate need of help suffer in silence?

Have you been in such a place? Are you there now? Would you like to do something about it? Whether we realize it or not our painful experiences do not invalidate us they have prepared us to help others. As a firefighter, you are given another unique opportunity: To save other firefighters!

No one else is more qualified than you. No one else will be welcomed into the inner circle of trust. And No one else can understand the things that we see than another firefighter. As a firefighter, you can break down the walls of bronze that our built around another’s heart through God’s love and mercy. He has divinely prepared us for this position and has been training us all along the roads of our lives.

“For He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” Psalm 107: 15-16

If you are ready to answer the call of Christ and reach out to your brothers and sisters in need there are many ways to do so. Contact us at bringingbackbrotherhood@gmail.com for more information. We will counsel you on ways to encourage others, connect you to organizations that are currently helping firefighters, and if you so desire you may become a part of our team.

Brotherhood is more than a word; its a belief that what we do is a calling placed inside of our hearts by God and we will answer that call by being there when no one else will. Will you be a part of it?

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries
Founder
704-507-7156
bringingbackbrotherhood@gmail.com

Depression Among First Responders

Depression Among First Responders-by Mark Lamplugh

Everyone else is running away from the fire, but you’re charging right into it. Gunfire rings out in a crowded store and people scatter, but you run toward the sound of the shots. You are the bravest among us – first responders facing danger to keep others safe. But who is looking out for you and your emotional wellbeing?

While most of society deals with the fight or flight response on a rather limited basis, for first responders like police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel it can happen on almost a daily basis. The psychological toll that prolonged stress takes on first responders varies widely, but can often be long-lasting and come in the form of depression.Depression-First-Responders-small

Symptoms of Depression

Depression manifests itself differently in every individual but as a whole it can affect one’s ability to work, sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Symptoms of depression can include:

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
Feelings of hopelessness
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
Irritability, restlessness
Loss of interest in pleasurable activities, including sex
Fatigue and decreased energy
Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
Sleep issues including insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
Overeating or appetite loss
Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Persistent aches or pains, headaches or other physical distress
First responders are often at a greater risk of suffering from depression than other professions because of both the nature of their jobs and the culture in which they operate. The whole “suck-it-up tough guy” image of first responders can hinder individuals who are suffering in silence to get the help they need.

Resources are available for those who may be suffering and not know where to turn for help. Admitting there may be an issue is the first step. Talking to a supervisor or chaplain about these issues can also facilitate the healing process.

To address the growing need for behavioral health support and resources, American Addiction Centers has created a program aimed at helping law enforcement officers and their families.

This dedicated hotline is available at 1.855.99.POLICE (765423). Additionally, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has launched Share the Load™, a support program for firefighters and EMS. As part of that program, the NVFC has partnered with American Addiction Centers to create the Fire/EMS Helpline, a free, confidential helpline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist firefighters, EMTs and their families. Callers receive compassionate, non-judgmental support for a variety of behavioral health issues, such as PTSD, addiction, depression, suicide prevention, stress or anxiety, critical incidents, relationship issues, or other issues affecting their work or personal life.

The helpline is available at 1-888-731-FIRE (3473).

Spotlight on Brotherhood: Share the Load Program

Share The Load Program:

Featuring Mark Lamplugh Jr. from 360 Wellness & The National Volunteer Council’s Share The Load program

As first responders, we face continual exposure to stress throughout our careers. It is well known that first responders have a higher rate of heart attacks, stress related disorders (PTSD, anxiety & depression, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms), and those that answer the call for help seldom make the call when they face down the ‘fires’ of their lives.

Firefighters and first responders often don’t call out for help due to a numerous reasons. Many of us have had the misfortune to lose a loved one or close friend to suicide. Sadly, many of us have witnessed the traumatic effects on our brothers or sisters who have battled depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, and other issues.

As firefighters, we practice situational awareness, being proactive, and being well trained in our craft. Why is it that these issues continue to grow statistically in our profession? Shouldn’t we be well trained in recognizing the signs of a ‘working fire’ within the heart of our fellow firefighter? Are we not a brotherhood? What can we do to better take care of each other?

This Spotlight on Brotherhood is meant to encourage one and all that something is being done and being done well. This ‘spotlight’ is meant to draw attention to a light in the darkness. Our brothers at American Addiction Center and the National Volunteer Firefighters Council have teamed up to create the “Share the Load Program.” They are taking a bold step in the right direction. Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries is a proud sponsor of this program and it is our heartfelt mission to inform first responders everywhere that there is hope.

Yet in the face of hope, many of us do not share our burdens. We suffer in silence while our lives burn down around us. Our eyes seem to cry out for help but our words fail us. In need of rescue, many of us fail to call a personal MAY-DAY. Let us briefly explore those reasons and how this resource can overcome those objections.

We don’t believe there is help out there so we don’t call?

“The first step in getting help is to make the call. Simply call 1-888-731-FIRE (3473) any time day or night. Calls are free and confidential. A skilled, trained Intake Counsellor will answer your call. Make sure you identify yourself as a firefighter, EMT, or family member of the fire service. The Intake Counsellor will listen to your problems and concerns and identify local resources in your area, or when appropriate, locate national treatment options that work within your needs and insurance capabilities. Trained assistance professionals who are members of the fire service are available to talk, and the licensed counsellors at AAC treatment facilities have undergone intensive training specifically on the culture and needs of the fire service.”(from NVFC website)

Would they understand? Yes, they would!

When we hurt, who do we feel the most comfortable talking to? Our fellow firefighters! One of those licensed professionals is Mark Lamplugh. Mark Lamplugh Jr is a 4th generation firefighter and former Captain with the Lower Chi Chester Fire Company. He is now a national treatment consultant with 360 Wellness specializing in First Responder Services. Mark has placed and referred 100’s of firefighters nationwide. Mark dedicates his life making sure every firefighter gets the help they need for Addiction and Mental Health issues. mark

360 Wellness has access to the best treatment centers and clinicians across the country. Let our experienced wellness specialists match you with a treatment center or clinician that meets your needs and gets you on the road to full recovery as soon as possible. We make sure to get you the
best possible help available. Call our wellness hotline and speak with a wellness specialist to help you find the best help possible: (800) 901-1640

Mark W Lamplugh Jr
Chief Executive Officer
Cell: 561-762-9729
www.360wellness.org

 

The citizens are taught to call 911 when in need; why don’t we call for help?
When you call 1-888-731-FIRE, the Fire/EMS Helpline any time day or night there will be a licensed professional ready to help us with problems such as: “alcohol or drug addiction, depression, suicide prevention, stress or anxiety, critical incidents, PTSD, stress caused by financial or stress problems, relationship issues, work related concerns, or psychological issues”

When you call, you will receive compassionate, non-judgmental support you can trust. Depending on your individual needs, you can speak with a trained fire service member who understands what you are going through, you can be referred to local resources to help with your specific problem, or you can be admitted to a treatment facility where there are licensed counsellors trained in the fire service culture. If a treatment center is needed, the Fire/EMS Helpline will work with your insurance to make sure there is no cost to you.” (From NVFC)

Brothers and sisters, there are fellow fire service professionals who are ready, willing and able to assist us by ‘sharing the load.’ We are not meant to carry our burdens alone. It is our hope that if you know someone in need, you are in need, or this will help your department that you will reach out. We have included the links to the following resources that are available:
Share The Load Program from the National Volunteer Fire Council: NVFC Share The Load

In our next Spotlight on Brotherhood we will continue to share the valuable work of other organizations that are helping lift up our brothers and sisters. Until next time, come along side one another and lift them up! Encouragement! We all are in need of it. May God Bless those who take courage to the next level by being strong enough to share their pain.