First, after you read through this, please forward it to your fellow public safety officials so we can get the word out.
Approximately 1 year ago several members of the Illinois Fire Fighter Peer Support Network (ILFFPS), Jeff Dill and others joined the PTSDchat.org team in their weekly radio show and Twitter discussion to discuss PTS and PTSD issues that we face as First Responders. In honor of International Firefighters Day (5/4/17) we would like to invite each of you to join the discussion again. Tomorrow night, Wednesday May 3rd beginning at 9pm EDT the PTSDchat.org team will again host another radio show and Twitter chat. Firefighters Charlie Heflin (Indiana) and Tim Grutzius (Illinois) will present a synopsis on the day in the life of a firefighter, what he or she is exposed to, and how this may or may not affect their psyche. The forum will then discuss why it is that so many in the firefighting community are reluctant to seek help with unresolved behavioral health issues. Lt. Grutzius is a member of ILFFPS and will speak about the life of a fulltime professional firefighter and FF Heflin will speak to the life a professional volunteer firefighter. You can read their biographies below.
If you recently attended FDIC you may have caught Matt Olson’s class on “Building and Creating a Peer-Support Program” or Dan DeGryse’s “Behavioral Health in the Fire Service” program. Both of these programs were exceptional and reinforced the importance of having a program to address mental health issues in the fire service and what resources are out there to assist those in need. The radio show and Twitter discussion hope to build on the importance of recognizing there is a lack of mental health support in our industries and how we can encourage more open discussion on the topic.
The discussion will take place on Twitter and on BlogTalkRadio. The link to listen to the show is http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ptsdchat. We encourage you to call into the show and share your stories or what you are doing to make a mental health difference. The call-in number is 1-619-924-0704. To participate in the Twitter discussion, just use the hashtag #PTSDchat. Some of the basic questions that we will discuss are listed below but this is certainly not a comprehensive list.
- What is it like to be a firefighter in today’s society?
- Why do you think so many firefighters/first responders are reluctant to come out of the shadows and seek help with unresolved behavioral health issues?
- If an individual carries a significant history (i.e. came from an abusive home, alcoholic family. or one with a history of mental illness) with them to the fire service, what effect ( if any) can this have or his/her psyche once exposed to the rigors of this occupation?
- What resources are available to ease the psycho-emotional burden for this community?
- Why is peer support so effective in opening an honest dialogue about behavioral health?
Tim Grutzius is a 22 year veteran of a suburban Chicago Fire Department and serves in the capacity of Lieutenant-Paramedic. He earned a diploma in Holistic Health Practice and a Certificate in Wellness Consulting from the American College of Healthcare Sciences located in Portland, Oregon. He is also employed by a Health, Fitness, and Recreation Center located on the campus of a community college. His intent is to educate others on how he is managing his PTSD through holistic means with the hope that others will become more comfortable with this topic. At the end of the day, it is all about sharing what we have learned along the way in an effort to make this world a better place to live.
Charlie Heflin is a 31 year veteran of the Fire Service. He works in the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office in the Public Safety Training Academy System and he is a volunteer EMT/FF with the Brooklyn Volunteer Fire Department in Indiana. FF Heflin knows first-hand what it is like to suffer from PTSD and how it destroyed many of his relationships because of his explosive behavior. His He holds an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science, a Bachelor’s Degree in Homeland Security and Public Safety and a Master’s Degree in Executive Fire Leadership. He aspires to continue to get the word out about mental health issues in all fields of public safety and would like to one day see a peer support network like the one in Illinois.