Did you know more police and firefighters die from suicide than in the line of duty? That's why first responders are now being taught how to tackle the stress of the job. And the people we call on when we need help are being reminded it's okay for them to ask for help, too.
The shooting death of Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron in 2012 was a wakeup call for first responders, especially for those who had been called to murder scenes before. Austin Police Corporal Javier Bustos was one of them. He recalls, “I saw someone who was wearing the same uniform as me that was killed in the line of duty. That's more trauma on top of the trauma that I already had."
And this stress upon stress can bring some first responders to the breaking point. Zac Butoryak with the Cedar Park Fire Department says, “We definitely don't want to go to the funeral for a fallen brother who took his own life because he didn't have somewhere to go, someone to talk to, someone who understood the plight of what he was dealing with."
That's why this week nearly 50 agencies are represented at Resiliency Training for First Responders going on in Cedar Park. They're learning all about threats to their mental health and wellness. Shawn Thomas is a former sheriff’s deputy from Seattle who founded the training program. She explains, “We talk about peer support, leadership, suicide, depression and addiction"
That's not to say all first responders will suffer from mental health issues, but they're learning to identify the signs and that it's okay to seek help. Cpl. Bustos adds, “We don't want people to keep it inside them. We want them to get it out. We don't want people to get embarrassed they're suffering some kind of trauma."
It's information that can help them keep doing the work they love for years to come. Lacey Clemons, animal control supervisor for Cedar Park Police says, “So now that this is becoming a new thing I want to take it to my department and be able to have long careers for my guys without the burnout that falls in-between."