Wilmington-area first responders discuss the importance of mental health

Wilmington-area first responders discuss the importance of mental health

New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Lt. Jerry Brewer said unfortunately, deputies run into traumatic events often. He told a story about an autistic kid who walked outside into a pond and drowned. “Our deputies responded, and it was very traumatic,” Brewer said. “If our deputies are deployed to a critical incident, we encourage them to talk about it. Talk to a peer who has gone through a traumatic event themselves.”

First responders:New Hanover emergency crews save girl’s life after she jumped from I-140 bridge Another first responder job that can be taxing on mental health is that of a paramedic.

Brewer said if they want to go home and speak to their own doctor, the office puts that into place for the deputy and everything gets taken care of. “The culture has changed a lot,” said Karen Miksch, New Hanover Regional Medical Center public relations outreach educator. “The biggest thing for me is your partner is looking out for you.”

“Twenty years ago, we would have been told to just go back to work if something traumatic happened at a call,” Brewer said. “Now, it’s a minimum of two hours of talking, eating since it helps people relax, and then it’s determined if they can go back to work or not but it depends on the situation.” According to Brewer, the sheriff’s office also offers an employee assistance program and peer-to-peer support. He said mental health support has come a long way.

“Many years ago, it was a ‘just suck it up’ attitude,” Miksch said. “The world as a whole is understanding that it’s not normal, the things we see, and giving more support.”  In first responder jobs, you could be with your work partner more than your spouse at home, Miksch said, so it’s important that they look out for one another. She said they always check in on the paramedics after each bad call and multiple bad calls in a short amount of time could be really hard on them.

It’s important to encourage just talking about things. Miksch also wanted to highlight 911 telecommunicators who she said are often the “unseen heroes.” StarNews previously reported that 911 dispatchers are often the forgotten first responders, but are crucial to emergency services. It can be multiple calls piled on, and then someone can get triggered by a simpler call that brings all these feelings to the forefront, Miksch said.

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