Updated: Jul 18, 2020
I had a great opportunity presented to me a few weeks ago. I was invited by a group called First Responder Wellness Trips to speak at their first event in Key Largo, Florida. They found out about Peacekeeper Initiative from my social media posts, and of course, I agreed to present information about our mission. It turned out that we shared the same or a similar mission and goals. It also turned out that they all loved the water and SCUBA diving as much as I do. On Friday, I was afforded the opportunity to address the group and speak about the struggles I went through, how I overcame them, and how I think peer mentoring, peer mentoring activities, suicide prevention, PTSD resources and groups, substance abuse groups, and referrals to individual mental health professionals could help police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel deal with the daily stressors they encounter. I wasn't sure how I'd be received, especially with my background, but to my surprise, I was welcomed with open arms. My sharing also fostered an excellent conversation where others were able to share their pain and what they were doing to deal with it, or not. By the end, I felt like we had bonded and felt encouraged that not only was Peacekeeper Initiative on the right track, but that others felt the same urge to help that I did. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new focus on first responder mental health. It is needed now more than ever with the anti-police and first responder sentiments and actions present today. It has only served to exacerbate existing stressors, and when coupled with COVID-19, first responders are more stressed than ever. Many are simply hanging it up early and retiring and/or moving on to other jobs. We are at risk of losing our most experienced officers who pass on the wisdom and experience that saves the lives of the next generation. It would be a shame if we allow this to continue without addressing the largest contributing factor to suicides, violence, and early retirement. Please consider supporting some organization, even if it's not us, that addresses these issues.
Thanks again for reading,