SALISBURY— We all count on first responders and law enforcement officers to take care of our community’s needs every day, but it is also important for their needs to be addressed. Depression, substance abuse, mental illness and even suicide are common in public safety professionals because of the trauma they see on a regular basis.
“We have seen the impact of trauma and mental illness locally and nationally within the public safety profession. No matter where it happens, it hits the whole community hard,” said Ralph “Chuck” Adams, In-Service Training Coordinator for Basic Law Enforcement Training at Rowan-Cabarrus.
To help first responders and law enforcement personnel develop healthy coping strategies, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is partnering with local municipalities to offer a daylong seminar, “Winning the Battle,” in Rowan and Cabarrus counties.
The training will be offered free of charge on November 13 and 14 to volunteer and full-time firefighters, EMS personnel, law enforcement personnel and their spouses or significant others. First responders receive a certificate and eight hours of training credit upon completion.
“Rowan-Cabarrus offers extensive training for public safety personnel, and we are equally committed to doing everything we can to ensure that they can carry out their work while maintaining healthy personal lives,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. “This unique training is an important reminder for emergency personnel to take care of themselves. We are grateful for the sacrifices they make for us every day.”
An award-winning documentary film titled “The Pain Behind the Badge” was produced in 2007 by Clarke Paris and his wife, Tracie, to address police stress and suicide. Clarke, who has since retired, worked as a supervisor with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, and Tracie was a registered nurse.
The following year, the couple began presenting their seven-hour training session, “Winning the Battle,” to agencies and law enforcement personnel including police, corrections employees, dispatchers, police chaplains, probation personnel, crime scene technicians, fire/EMS and military personnel. The training also is relevant for spouses and significant others.
It’s crucial that spouses and partners are equipped to deal with stressors and red flags, Adams said.
“The relationship between that first responder and their partner must be strong, because without that support network, the likelihood of a traumatic event can increase substantially,” he explained. “You can’t bring the job home all the time, so first responders tend to talk to each other and the spouse or partner may not know what is bothering them. The same is true on the other side – there is very real stress in being the significant other of a first responder.”
With a “boots on the ground” perspective, Clarke and Tracie Paris address such issues as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide prevention. They use personal stories, videos, stories from high profile incidents, and research to drive home the message that America’s heroes need to take care of themselves and know when to seek treatment before serious issues arise at work and in their personal lives.
“Everyone who attends will leave with a new respect for the job they do, and hopefully be better equipped to maintain their own personal health and welfare,” Adams said. “If first responders suffer, we all suffer. We’re doing everything we can to help them deal with the demanding and stressful work they do every day.”