1st Responder Conferences provide mental health support for frontline workers
OCEAN CITY, Md.- “But during the whole process I realized if we’re both first responders and we don’t know where to get help, there’s got to be other people out there,” said Founder of 1st Responder Conferences Shawn Thomas.
That’s the moment 1st Responder Conferences came to life.
The goal is to improve the mental health of those on the front lines, discussing depression, PTSD, anxiety, and more. “People are really realizing that first responders go through a lot day in and day out and that we need to provide more programs for them live happy, healthy lives,” said Thomas.
“We’re getting cutting edge research. We’re getting speakers from across the county coming to us who are first responders themselves, telling us what’s working and what’s not,” said Peer Support Team Coordinator for Ocean City Fire Department’s Eric Olson.
I’m told, the pandemic showed the strengths of these brave men and women but also revealed the need for resources. “It’s the constant call, after call, after call and the stress that builds up. It affects you physically and mentally and you bring it home to your family,” said Olson.
That’s why Behind the Line Inc., a local non-profit, is stepping in to co-host the conference. “We started really seeing a need amongst law enforcement for more conversation about wellness and taking care of each other and yourselves,” said Matt Brown.
That need became even more obvious when it hit closer to home. “And we recognize as husband and wife that sometimes the job can kind of interfere with a lot of different dynamics. So bringing information and trying to help others establish resources can make a big difference,” said Behind The Line President Heather Brown.
Organizers say the work isn’t done after the conference. “It not a one size hits all thing, right? You have to find the mental health and wellness tool that works for you,” said Thomas.
“Number one is just be that advocate. The health and wellness of employees comes first and everything else will follow suit,” said Olson.
Behind the Line Inc. provides services to support front line members and their families, including peer groups hosted every 3rd Tuesday of the month, stress management sessions, and more.
If you’d like to find out more, visit their website here.