Albany First Responders Expand Mental Health Resources

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) – First responders see almost every emergency you can imagine – the times when people are most desperate: like when their house burns down or when they sustain serious injuries.

That’s why Albany Professional Firefighters have created a support group that will call on outside resources.

Steven Gilmer, vice president of professional firefighters, said first responder jobs are one of the best jobs to have, but they come with a lot of mental health triggers.

“There are so many rewards to that, but one of the things they don’t teach you in training and in school is the fact that one day you’re going to come across something that’s going to affect you mentally.” , did he declare. “At the fire department level, we see a lot of people losing everything. A lot of that weighs on us. »

Professional firefighters plan to expand the support group with more training courses and external resources.(WALB)

Gilmer said his organization sees a need — especially in South Georgia, for mental health support.

He himself experienced a lack of resources through the employee assistance program offered by the fire department.

“The fact that there hasn’t been a real externalization of the means of going out and expressing emotions. A lot of people bottle everything up inside,” he said. “They try to deal with it in their own way either through isolation or alcohol or drugs or whatever they can try to dim the mental images in their minds and the depression that they have and it just creates a spectrum too many disasters.”

Gilmer hopes the support group will alleviate mental health issues throughout the first...
Gilmer hopes the support group will alleviate mental health issues in the first responder community.(WALB)

Gilmer added that studies show that 70 to 80 percent of first responders would talk more about their mental health issues if there was a local support group available.

The First Responder Support Alliance will provide mental support from peers and external professional mental health providers. He’s also partnered with out-of-state mental health facilities, just in case a first responder doesn’t get enough help locally.

Jennifer King, a licensed professional counsellor, has seen firsthand the impact of mental health on first responders, having worked with them for seven years.

“They see horrible things and put their lives on the line for the community and so, they just need to be supported,” she said.

King said many issues cause mental health issues, including how quickly first responders can speak with a professional therapist.

“One of the biggest issues is availability and getting people there quickly when they need them, so hopefully with this program and having advisers on board it will give first responders opportunity to get help right away,” she said. .

King also said that aside from the lack of resources, toxic masculinity also plays a role in first responders remaining silent about their mental health issues.

King works with other therapists to ensure first responders are supported throughout...
King works with other therapists to ensure first responders are cared for by the support group.(WALB)

“I think it’s just the stigma around mental health. It has nothing to do with the hardness of your work or the quality of your work. It’s a resource that I think is really needed in the community, especially with first responders,” she said.

Gilmer said he wants any first responder from Dougherty and surrounding countries to feel comfortable talking and asking for help.

“We’re just looking to try to give first responders an opportunity to open up and not be afraid to admit they’re struggling,” he said.

The first support group mental health training class will be held June 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn.

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