Detective Sgt. Matt Lindemeyer investigates crimes against children, an inherently stressful line of work. He also remembers a suicide he witnessed early in his career.
“Unfortunately she put the gun to her chin and she made the comment, ‘I’ve been wanting to do this ever since I was 14,’” said Lindemeyer.
Horrors that most of us can’t imagine are daily occupational hazards for police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders. In the worst of circumstances first responders help everyday people in need, sometime heroically. But it turns that helping others often hurts the first responder.
“It can affect your mind. It can affect your heart, it can affect your soul, affect your relationships, marriages, how you treat the community,” said Kansas City police captain Darren Ivey.
Captain Ivey is one of the trainers for a program called Building Resilience: Surviving Secondary Trauma For First Responders. The program is open to law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians, juvenile officers, and prosecutors. Ivey spent three days in St. Louis training first responders to recognize the physical and emotional toll of their professions and emphasize the importance of seeking professional help.
“Anybody who’s in a helping profession has grown up in a culture of not asking for help,” said Ivey. “Suck it up. Don’t ask for help. Put your feelings aside. Throw a little dirt on it and get back to work. The ones who run towards the gunfire are the ones who are going to run away from the doctors.”
'First to respond, last to seek help' is a phrase often associated with first responders because they don’t want to be viewed as weak. That’s why Ivey said the goal of Building Resilience is to change the first responder culture.
“I really think I’m starting to see a tipping point. More people are asking for help,” said Ivey.
“Society is changing. It’s becoming more acceptable for people to show that they’re vulnerable because we are human and it's OK seek seek help to work through it,” said Lindemeyer.