Symposium helps counselors understand what first responders experience

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Law enforcement agencies and health care professionals held symposium Friday to discuss the issues of mental health.

(WIBW/Danielle Martin)

"We're finding out some people weren't comfortable going to the EAP, because they weren't sure those individuals, clinicians had the training on what they actually do as a first responder, and what their exposed to on a daily basis," Topeka Fire Chief Craig Duke said.

The City of Topeka and the 10-33 Foundation partnered to show mental health providers how they can be more effective and help first responders.

TFD Captain Diane Hawkins emphasized that they need mental health providers to understand what they went through.

"They need to be able to listen to it, and not cry, and want to run out of the room," she said. "They need to be willing to listen to it and deal with it themselves and that way they can help us move forward."

The City of Topeka and the 10-33 foundation partnered to show mental health providers how they can be more effective and help first responders.

"We are breaking down the stigma, showing that it's okay to talk about it and provide resources to our first responders on how to get some help, where they can go," Steve Conn, Battalion Chief of Colerain Township said.

First responders and mental health professionals spent the day learning about how their problems are different. There were speaking and training sessions for mental health professionals to learn the culture and challenges of first responders.

"We're helping them come better at their jobs, were helping them being able to stay longer," Kim Bowers, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor said. "Being able to connect them with people who are understanding with their dealing with by helping those people that are going to be helping them understand their environment first."

There are high risks of PTSD in first responders and its important for them to know that help is always on their side.

"In talking to the Chiefs here in Topeka, they are taking this really seriously, that if somebody needs help, that all the doors are open to all the administrators, all the officers, if they need, they can go and talk to anybody," Conn explained.

The Chief of the Topeka Fire Department says that learning the trauma of first responders can help save more lives.