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Trauma can take a toll on our local first responders

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 9:04 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - First responders come to the rescue on our worst days. Whether it’s a car accident, drowning, or fire, Panama City Beach Fire Rescue Division Chief Terry Parris said they have it built in their DNA that they’re the ones to help.

First responders take on the role of real-life superheroes, putting their lives at risk to save ours. But no one said being a hero was easy.

“We see some of the stuff that a normal citizen doesn’t even think of or realize. And then you see it over and over and over in your career. So, it does you know it does take a toll on you,” Parris said.

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner Jennifer Davis said it’s a toll that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“The year of 2018 alone, there was an average of one firefighter that completed suicide per week that year. Take into account, that did not factor in all of those that were silently trying or were working towards that,” Davis said.

With a job that’s always going, it’s hard for a lot of first responders to take a second to themselves and just breathe. But PCB Fire Rescue officials said when the going gets tough, they always have each other to lean on.

“This is my family away from my family. We rely on our fellow coworkers to save us, to look out for us, protect us. And you have that bond, it’s like no other,” Parris said.

For more than seven years, Bay County has offered first responders a free and anonymous peer counseling program through its critical incident stress management team, also known as CISM.

“Each person has their own way of dealing with it in a support group; family, coworkers, church, relatives, you know friends. But in addition, we have this team that’s available,” Parris said.

Davis said however you choose to relieve that stress, it’s okay to not always be okay. But, make sure to seek help. Even heroes need a little help sometimes.

“That’s one of the bravest things that they can do,” Davis said.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is time to remind people that it’s okay to not always be okay. If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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