Resources for First Responders

We are a peer support network that provides crisis intervention for emergency responders

Crisis resources for immediate help

Emergency Responder Crisis Text Line – Text BADGE to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
Suicide hotline (not first responder specific)

Frontline Helpline – 1-866-676-7500
24/7 coverage with first responder call-takers

Copline (Law Enforcement Only) – 1-800-267-5463
Confidential line for Law Enforcement

Assistance For Responders Affected By The Disaster

Forming connections between emergency responders who suffered losses during a disaster and people who can assist them. This service is geographically limited to Northern California.

  • Psychological support
  • Assistance with filing of insurance claims
  • Assistance with federal/state resource management
  • Assistance with goods/housing
  • Therapy dogs

If you are an emergency responder who was affected by a disaster please call us at 707-200-3765.

Request assistance online

If you are willing to assist emergency responders during these tragic times please call or contact us via volunteer form.

First Responder Meetings in California

Support meetings are available for first responders throughout Northern California – First Responder Meeting Locations

These meetings are only for first responders and not the general public. These meetings serve as a safe, confidential place, where first responders can share with people who truly understand. “In that room, I never feel alone” – Anonymous

Looking for a Clinician

Need to talk, this is a list of professionals who specialize in First Responders – Resources

CISM debriefs: Mental Health First Aid

Critical Incident Stress Management is a comprehensive, integrative, multicomponent crisis intervention system. CISM is considered comprehensive because it consists of multiple crisis intervention components, which functionally span the entire temporal spectrum of a crisis. CISM interventions range from the pre-crisis phase through the acute crisis phase, and into the post-crisis phase. Crisis intervention is a short-term helping process. It is an acute intervention designed to stabilize and mitigate the crisis response (Evenrly & Mitchelle, 2008). It is not psychotherapy. The goals are to foster natural resiliency through stabilization, symptom reduction, return to adaptive functioning and / or facilitation of access to continued care (adapted from Caplan, 1961).

 

To request CISM debrief for your organization call us at 707-200-3765

PTSD/PTSI

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been an accepted diagnosis since 1980. We believe it is time to adopt a new name – Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. PTSI is more accurate, hopeful and honorable.

PTSI is a biological injury that develops after a person has experienced or witnessed a terrifying event. While many people have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while after a traumatic event, they normally get better with time and don’t develop PTSI. Yet, some people show symptoms of PTSI like flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and frightening thoughts that get worse and/or last for months or even years, severely interfering with their daily lives.

For a full article please refer to: http://globalptsifoundation.org/ptsd-vs-ptsi

What is PTSI in emergency responders:

As first responders, we put others first during emergency situations, which is a technique we automatically do to get through a critical incident and ensure that everyone is cared for and safe. A traumatic event, or critical incident, is any type of disaster such a hurricane, flood, car crash, fire, or caring for a severely injured individual. The individuals we help during these incidents can easily develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)/Post Traumatic Stress Incident (PTSI), as well as the first responders who help those individuals.

PTSD/PTSI is a medical condition that affects one’s mental health after being triggered by a traumatic event. This can occur by either experiencing or witnessing an event or by an accumulation of multiple events. Sometimes this they may lead to difficulty dealing with certain aspects of this event. These difficulties subside with time. However, if the symptoms interfere with daily activities or last for multiples weeks or months, this may indicate PTSD/PTSI.

The symptoms of PTSD/PTSI are extensive and vary from person to person. They are generally categorized into physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms.

Physical Symptoms May Include

Fatigue

Twitches

Grinding of teeth

Intestinal upsets

Vomiting

Insomnia

Headaches

Excessive sweating

Nausea

Nightmares

Pounding heart

Chest pain

Difficulty breathing

Diarrhea

Behavioral Symptoms May Include

Withdrawal from friends and family

Restlessness

Substance abuse

Increased alcohol consumption

Suspicion

Difficulty remembering

Anti-social behaviors

Paranoia

Difficulty concentrating

Emotional outbursts

Pacing

Excessive worry

Emotional Symptoms May Include

Anxiety

Denial

Agitation

Panic

Irritability

Apprehension

Guilt Depression

Suicidal thoughts or actions

Fear

Anger

Symptoms of PTSI can be extensive and vary from person to person. Based on my personal experience, when these symptoms interfere with your life on a daily basis and you find yourself consumed by thoughts or feelings that you cannot control, it is a good idea to seek professional help for PTSI. Many First Responder organizations have established peer support groups, which can be a good place to find local information and assistance. Many agencies also have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that can help find a psychologist or counselor who specialize in PTSI. In addition, there are several national programs that specialize in PTSD for first responders. Please contact us for more information or to talk more about PTSD.

Christopher Dabbs (Retired California Highway Patrol Officer)

 

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Common Stress Reactions from Critical Incidents

Real Life Example of Post-Traumatic Stress:

What is it? Why does it matter?

That won’t happen to me. I’m too strong, tough, and invincible.

I’m a First Responder.

I am a 32-year veteran of a large fire department in California. I had a high-ranking position. College-educated, well-trained, and experienced. Interesting enough, I am also a human being. That makes me susceptible to stress. I can have a full plate. And I most certainly cannot drink from a 5-inch fire hose of overwhelming circumstances, sights, sounds, and emotions.

I have a Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.

The day started like any other. It was my day off. Breakfast with family. Play with the dogs. Get some yardwork done. While listening to the scanner, I heard a battalion chief ask for another chief officer to respond to a working vegetation fire. Within minutes, I was on the road.

As I approached the scene, all I could see of the fire was a non-ominous looking white smoke column drifting lazily up to the clouds above. I met up with the battalion chief to transition command. He would focus on Operations, while I took the Incident Commander role.

I noticed the battalion chief was not acting as his normal self, and I asked what was going on. A crew was in trouble, and had called MAYDAY. I now know that that was the opening salvo of my stress overload. After the crew had been extracted from their situation, I drove over to their location to assess their injuries, so I could provide an update to my chief.

It was a surreal experience. People I knew well, were horribly injured.
Several minutes later, I found myself at the end of a cul-de-sac in front of a pre-school. A wave of claustrophobia swept over me. It was later explained to me that that wave was a panic attack. I managed to regroup, and spent the next several hours commanding the fire.

As the days turned into weeks, my chronic insomnia was robbing me of energy and focus. I went to the doctor for a sleep aid. She sent me to therapy. While the grass stayed green that winter, with the help of my therapist, I kept ahead of the PTSI. Barely.

By early summer, the outcome was no longer in question. Driving through a burn scar from a different fire set off a panic attack. If I wasn’t having a nightmare, I was waking up drenched with sweat. Listening to fireworks during the 4th of July was almost unbearable.

Then there was the headache. My constant companion. Unfazed by migraine medicines, the tension headache stayed with me 24/7. Good days were marked by only a slight headache. Bad ones felt like my head was being squeezed by a vise press.

Within weeks I was off work, completely and totally depleted by a week-long panic attack. After two weeks of doing nothing, the fog started to lift a bit, and I wondered what the hell had just happened.

I have lost track of how many hours of therapy, EMDR, and group counseling I have received. The lifestyle changes I have had to adopt to function. Damaged relationships beyond salvage. Prescriptions and supplements to get me back to the land of the living.

This is not how I envisioned retirement to be.

I was a First Responder.

Now I am a Post-Traumatic Stress survivor.

Linda Green

Mental Health Resources

Resources

The following are resources we’ve put together, please click on each one for more information.

West Coast Post-trauma Retreat
Save a Warrior
International Association of Fire Fighters

Body Stores Trauma

Excellent book – “Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk

 

Gary & Laura Ruiz use a shiatsu based acupressure-style of bodywork combined with the Chinese meridian system.  This blends the body/mind/spirit aspect the session and gives a chance to focus on any particular areas. We have been practicing/teaching for thirty years and still have a blast.

Shiatsu Healing Therapy
Sonoma, California
707.938.2296
shiatsu4u@comcast.net