First responders encouraged to put mental health first

As students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are trying to return to a normalcy of sorts, so are the police and paramedics who responded to the shooting.

KX News sat down with a local medic and a mental health professional to see what measures would be taken for first responders following a tragic experience.

“We often are faced with tragedy, death, serious accidents and that kind of thing, ” clinical specialist at Community Ambulance Services in Minot, Marcy Kuhnhenn, said that part of the job makes the mental health of their employees a top priority.

Serious calls are always followed by a crisis debriefing to evaluate how each responder is reacting to what happened on the scene.

“You go, and you kind of react on instinct. You deal with the situation afterwards,” Kuhnhenn said, “some of us have to sit down and cry because it was that tough of a situation.”

If need be, medics are encouraged to seek mental health treatment or counseling with the chaplain through Trinity Health, which would be covered by workman’s safety insurance.

But not all trauma is the same for everyone.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, Dionne Spooner said, “I think one of the first things is that when you’re responding to any kind of trauma, it’s very individual.”

Paramedics  at Community Ambulance do have access to mental health resources. But when it comes to tragic events, a lot of them find comfort in talking to one another.

“If they can do that, it’s really therapeutic and very good for them,” added Kuhnhenn.

“”I think by doing that, it gives you a little more sense of closure,” said Spooner, “but also allows you to verbalize and make sense of something that many times there might not be sense to, especially in a time of crisis.”

That’s why the police department also has trained staff to be a part of critical incident stress debriefings and stress management.

“It’s not something that you just get through. You learn to have it become a part of you,” Spooner said.

The city of Minot also used the Village Employee Assistance Program in the event that someone wants or needs individual counseling.

Help is readily available and encouraged to be utilized.
 

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