AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) – In light of the recent fatal Aurora apartment fire that claimed the life of a child and hospitalized two others, FOX31 has registered with a nonprofit that helps frontline workers deal with the mental health and stress injuries that work creates.
The fire was reportedly started on purpose and burned 12 units, displacing 31 people – 18 adults and eight children. A 5 year old boy died.
The All Clear Foundation said it recognizes the things they are exposed to at work impact the human behind the badge, uniform and scrubs.
“There’s pretty constant occupational exposure to other people’s intense trauma and pain, to a lot of tragedy,” said Rhonda Kelly, executive director of the All Clear Foundation. “Responders are exposed to more stress and trauma in a year than many people in their lifetime. That’s a lot to deal with.”
Rhonda Kelly knows firsthand. She was a firefighter in Aurora for years and she knows that everyone deals with devastating situations, like the Aurora townhouse fire, in different ways.
“Some of the firefighters may be moms or dads, parents, who have a personal connection to this loss. Others may not have a deeply personal connection to her. They may find that even though it’s tragic and sad, it doesn’t really bother them on a deep level. And either of those answers is totally OK,” Kelly said.
Kelly said 18-28% of emergency responders suffer from PTSD and over the past year rates of anxiety and depression have been at an all-time high.
How First Responders Can Get Trauma Help
The Aurora Police Department said it has a wellness unit made up of two officers specifically tasked with checking the mental health of their peers. Public Information Officer Francisco Saucedo described how these officers could reach out.
“How do you handle this call? Did it affect you in any way? Here are some resources for you that you can contact or introduce them to someone else in the department who’s been through something similar, and they can contact them as a mentor to see, you know, how they’ve been through the healing process,” Saucedo said.
The All Clear Foundation has different resources, such as an anonymous peer-to-peer platform called Responder Rel8. It is a free and confidential platform for emergency responders and frontline medical workers. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so responders can connect with others who have gone through similar experiences, which helps normalize work stressors and challenges while increasing connection.
“We want to talk to someone who understands, someone who’s been through the same experience, someone who’s not going to break confidentiality,” Kelly said. “And someone, more importantly, who’s not going to be judgmental, who can hear us say how we feel — can hear the kind of quirky sense of humor we have to talk about things. Because if you don’t can’t laugh, you’ll cry.
There is also a digital platform with hundreds of evidence-based resources and tools to support responders, healthcare workers and their loved ones in their personal and professional well-being called YOU | ResponderStrong.
“Emergency responders often inadvertently bring the trauma and stress of work home, and it impacts their family life. It also interferes with their family life,” Kelly said. “Family members are often the first to recognize these signs of stress trauma — he or she just doesn’t act the same way. Things are different. They are angry, they do not sleep, whatever the problem.
“Family members [can] do self-assessments to explore verified, evidence-based information regarding the unique professional challenges of the job and the things that affect us as humans, whether or not we are the caregiver or when the family member is carrying the invisible uniform,” Kelly said.
The foundation also has a crisis text line: if you or a loved one is in crisis, you can text the BADGE to 741-741 to connect confidentially with a trained crisis counselor.
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