First Responders, Partners – Chicago Tribune focuses on mental health

Emergency service workers face many challenges in their jobs and how those jobs fit into their personal lives. The Multi-Agency Association for Academic Cooperation (MAAC) Foundation aims to strengthen their mental health through a workshop on Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon.

The course for first responders and their partners is titled “Post-Traumatic Purpose: An Invigorating Course in Leadership, Mental Health and Recovery” and is taught by Travis Howze, a 14-year veteran of the military and emergency services. State Marines, Police Officers and Firefighters.

He now travels the world teaching about health. This course has many objectives, including dealing with burnout, loss of empathy, and loss of motivation due to professional demands and frequent risk exposure.

Those topics are top of mind for local public safety leaders. At its first meeting on Feb. 16, the Porter County Public Safety Commission addressed fires in front of its first responders, who are unable to take frequent vacations due to staff shortages.

This is in addition to the stressful nature of the daily work. Portage Fire Department Battalion Chief Chris Crail, commander of Indiana’s District 1 Fire Fighter Training Academy, spoke about the toll the call has on first responders, even if the call is outside of their jurisdiction.

“When you go from 60 heart rate to 120 heart rate, it’s not healthy,” Crail said of the calls coming in at all hours and people trying to kill time.

The course will help participants recognize the subtle signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder before it worsens, as well as develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Knowing, understanding and effectively applying leadership qualities is another course objective. Portage Fire Chief Randy Wilkening said first responders often deal with people who don’t know how advanced their skills are, explaining that patients say, “Take me to the hospital.”

“They don’t realize we’re medical professionals now,” Wilkening said.

Career longevity and planning for life after work requires planning for one’s future mental health, the course description says. It also requires stepping up to communicate trauma and be the first line of defense as a mental health resource.

It’s a special kind of person who goes into this line of work, acknowledged Porter County Commission President Jim Biggs, R-North.

“People like that who have anything in them are hard to find,” he said. This workshop will help them find ways to fix their minds.

Shelley Jones is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

The First Responder Mental Health course is open to first responders and their partners. The course will be held on Thursday, February 23 from 8 am to noon at the MAAC Foundation, 4203 Montdale Park Dr. It will be held in Valparaiso. Cost is $25 per person. Register on Or call (219)510-9111.

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