Mental health of first responders, law enforcement after traumatic incidents

[anvplayer video=”5048692″ station=”998128″]

(ABC 6 News) – For agencies like the Olmsted and Mower County Sheriff’s Offices, they have the Southeastern Minnesota Emergency Medical Services and one thing it provides is Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) debriefings after traumatic accidents.

"You don’t want to just get to the point where you’re just numb to everything and you don’t have any feelings," Olmsted Co. Sheriff Kevin Torgerson said. So the first thing they do is talk about it and CISM is available to firefighters, first responders, ambulance crews and law enforcement.

The debriefings happen after incidents that anyone who is on the scene can go to.

"Some days may be very mundane, and other days it’s one horrific incident after another," Mower Co. Sheriff Steve Sandvik said.

For most agencies, deputies, officers and first responders may live in the community or nearby the community that they serve, sometimes responding to incidents involving people that they know.

"Maybe it was a kid and the kid was the same age as that deputy’s kid or officer’s kid. They’re picturing this," Torgerson said.

And of course, they can go home to their families.

"I probably wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have an incredible spouse that could listen," Torgerson said. "You gotta have somebody you can talk to."

Because sometimes we forget that first responders and law enforcement are human too.

"Yeah, we’re supposed to be big tough guys, we do that. But, we also make sure that we are taking care of people in a respectful manner and making sure that we are giving them every resource to help get past whatever has happened," Sandvik said.

Sheriff Sandvik says his officers deal with things on a daily basis that most people have no idea about.

"And they have to go back home to their wives, to their children, to their spouses," Sandvik said. "And how do you explain this? A lot of times these are unexplainable things."

Olmsted and Mower Co. Sheriff Offices make sure their officers and deputies know of the resources that are available to them.

"To make sure that the people we’re asking to do these most difficult tasks are able, ready and knowing that they’re supported," Sandvik said.

Some law enforcement agencies also utilize peer counselors to be able to talk to their trained coworkers on how to help people deal with these situations. They said the best thing to do is to talk about these tough events.