Grieving Behind the Badge, It’s Not Just About Grief

 We look forward to seeing you there!

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Workshop Agenda

Friday, April 17, 2015
8:30 – 9:00 Carl Mack , Elyria, OH firefighter – history and stories 9:00 – 9:15 Carl Mack – Introduce speakers and morning agenda
9:15 – 10:20 Peggy Sweeney – understanding grief; coping with grief
10:20 – 10:40 Break
10:40 – 11:50 Peggy continues – first responder stress, it’s not just about grief
11:50 – 12:00 Carl Mack – explain lunch procedures and afternoon agenda
12:00 – 13:00 Lunch
13:00 – 14:00 Don Prince – addiction and recovery, Station House Retreat
14:00 – 14:15 Break
14:15 – 15:30 Mark DiBona – officer suicide, post traumatic stress
15:30 – 16:00 Q/A, Overview Saturday, and pass out CEU forms

Saturday, April 18, 2015
8:30 – 9:15 Don Prince – addiction and recovery: reaching out to someone who needs help; first responder treatment specific program
9:15 – 9:30 Break
9:30 – 10:15 Mark DiBona – open discussion about post traumatic stress within the first responder community – what can family members/friends do to support those with mental health issues? where can they find help for the first responder?
10:15 – 10:30 Break
10:30 – 11:15 Peggy – families and departments coping with a line of duty or suicide death of a coworker/family member
11:30 – noon Closing remarks

Helping Children Cope with Critical Incidents

by Karen Solomon

Karen Solomon
Karen Solomon

You saw the news this week, Officer Jones was shot in the face, his wife is standing by his bedside and they are receiving support from the hospital staff and their friends. Did you hear about his kids? No, you didn’t. Unfortunately, we forget that many officers have families and there are children involved. We forget that they are also affected by the same circumstances as the spouse/parents of officers and they need help coping.

Too often, the children are whisked away to a safe place or information is kept from them in an effort to protect them and prevent them from being afraid. This very practice may amplify their fear and create long-term problems with children. Continue reading Helping Children Cope with Critical Incidents


Why is Dad So Mad?
by Seth Kastle
Company First Sergeant (retired)
US Army Reserve

kastleThe children’s issues picture book Why Is Dad So Mad? is a story for children in military families whose father battles with combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After a decade fighting wars on two fronts, tens of thousands of service members are coming home having trouble adjusting to civilian life; this includes struggling as parents.

Why Is Dad So Mad? Is a narrative story told from a family’s point of view (mother and children) of a service member who struggles with PTSD and its symptoms. Many service members deal with anger, forgetfulness, sleepless nights, and nightmares.This book explains these and how they affect Dad. The moral of the story is that even though Dad gets angry and yells, he still loves his family more than anything.

About the Author: Through my 16 years in the Army Reserve I served in many capacities culminating in my role as a Company First Sergeant.  I was deployed in January 2002 to Qatar, and then to Afghanistan for a total of eight months.  I was then deployed to Iraq in January 2003 until April 2004.  I have been married for nearly ten years now to my wonderful wife Julia, and we have two daughters; Raegan and Kennedy.  The topic of dealing with PTSD as a parent is something that is very close to my heart.  I have struggled with PTSD for ten years now, my daughters are young so who I am now is all they know.  I wrote the book Why is Dad So Mad? to try to help them understand why I am the way I am now.  This is not who I used to be, but it is who I am now; this is reality.  More than anything I want my daughters as well as the children of other services members to know that no matter what we, as fathers love them more than anything.  Things may not always be picture perfect , but as parents we will always be there for our kids. You may contact Seth through his website.

Silhouetted in Flame

by Anonymous Firefighter

Richard Charniga
An apartment fire in 1994 claimed the lives of two young children. Firefighters, including the author of this poem, were at this fire during a twenty-two inch blizzard. 

As the alarm comes in we all know it’s really bad.
The fire escapes are full of people who will soon lose everything they have ever had.
We run right in because we soon hear that two children are trapped in the second floor rear.

The firefighters are at the door silhouetted in flame.
Their attempts to make entry are made in vein.
We call for a hose to reach the fire floor but the fire will not wait and has decided to take more.
Two little lives that could not find the door.

And as this has not been enough to bear, we soon learn that the fire is now everywhere.
This heartless beast has won the first fight.
And tests our endurance until the first daylight.

Hours later frozen and beaten we start to win.
Now it is time to go back in.
We all know in a matter of time that someone will have to make that dreaded find.

It is late in the station house as I lay in my bed.
These visions I keep seeing will not leave my head.
We have all fought many fires and no two are the same.

I will never forget the one where the firefighters were silhouetted in flame.

Pride Kept Me from Reaching Out for Help

by James “Jimmy” Thomas
Police Officer, Shift Supervisor
Ontario, Canada Provincial Police

**very sensitive material for some readers**

As a police officer, we are hired for our Type A personalities. Within the sub-culture, we can quickly believe that we are “invincible” and don’t dare show vulnerability or mental illness. Canadian statistics show that 1 in 5 of us will suffer from a mental illness in our lifetime.

Jimmy Thomas
Jimmy Thomas

Thank you Peggy Sweeney, Don Prince and the Station House Retreat team for allowing me to contribute to their blog site. My story isn’t very different from many others in emergency services. Anyone working in the fire, medical or policing professions will see some horrific sights in their careers. Over time, some may become affected by the jobs that they are entrusted and expected to perform. That doesn’t make them weak or less than anyone else. It makes them human and for reasons yet to be clearly proven; some will become afflicted with an Operational Stress Injury. This is my story and a plea to never allow false pride to keep you from reaching out for help if you need it. Continue reading Pride Kept Me from Reaching Out for Help

Meet Billy Padden

Station House Retreat is proud to introduce

Billy Padden
Director of Recreation
Station House Retreat

Billy Padden
Billy Padden

Billy Padden attained his bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education from West Chester University. During his time at WCU, Billy achieved ambitious athletic goals, going on to claim two National Collegiate Boxing Championships and three All-American titles. Billy joins our team with an incredible amount of experience in the field of therapeutic physical activity and its effects on substance abuse recovery.

As a teacher, counselor and coach for the students of Glen Mills Schools, Billy developed his life’s passion of sharing the gifts of education and exercise with others. Later in his career, he worked as a Probation Officer for the City of Philadelphia, specifically lending his skills to the city’s Intensive Drug and Alcohol Unit. Billy became one of the department’s leading advocates for the development of addiction recovery-based programs in impoverished parts of North Philadelphia by leading the Philly B.A.D. (Boxers Against Drugs) Program at a local gym in the city’s Kensington section.

Billy’s coaching career provided him the opportunity to work with a vast array of individuals including mentally handicapped adults, Special Olympians and some of the world’s greatest elite athletes. He believes that physical activity at any level will enhance the addiction recovery process and improve overall quality of life. Today, Billy celebrates several years of sobriety.

*featured image – HBO’s Larry Merchant interviews Billy Padden after winning National Collegiate Boxing Championship

Meet Don Prince

Station House Retreat is proud to introduce

Don Prince 175x211Don Prince
Co-Founder and National Outreach Director
Station House Retreat
(561) 282-8685

Don Prince had a sixteen year career with the Brookhaven Fire Department in New York. During his career, he progressed through the ranks as badged driver, station lieutenant, first and second assistant chief, and finally, as chief of the department. Don managed a two-station department with 80 members with approximately fifteen apparatus. He conducted educational programs for civic organizations and homeowners associations, orchestrated and facilitated informational sessions about compliance and safety within his department as well as working with local government agencies.

Don is proud to have served as a first responder during the 911 attacks at the World Trade Center. He is a former New York State certified EMT and has experience in patient care and compliance.

Don is a member of the Delray Beach (FL) Chamber of Commerce and a former member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 36. Don is also a person in recovery from long term alcohol addiction. He now dedicates his life to helping others find their path to recovery as he has, and regain peace and purpose in their lives.

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Meet Steven Shapiro

Station House Retreat is proud to introduce….

StevSteven Shapiro headshoten D. Shapiro
Senior Behavioral Health Technician
Station House Retreat

When I joined the fire department in 1996, I was battling alcoholism and drug addiction, but attempted to really make an effort to get sober, and did so for a few years. I was quickly promoted in rank, and trained by the best in extradition procedures. My company called me “Jaws”.

I loved being a firefighter, but the reality of the alcoholism and addiction was too powerful for me to do alone. I was not participating in any 12 step program and eventually relapsed, got sober, relapsed…..the same old story. I managed to put together about ten months of sobriety until September 11, 2001.

Steven Shapiro 911 500x382
Steven Shapiro

Our fire department was the first rescue squad on scene from Connecticut on that horrific morning. We were on “the pile” for a little over two weeks. After passing the psych evaluation, I was off to the races drinking myself into oblivion. In November of 2002, I retired after driving an engine full of water to a fire (alone and drunk) and almost tipping it over on a carload of children. For a long time, I suffered from post traumatic stress and trauma from 9/11 and all the sights and sounds that we all go through in our profession.

Today, I am sober and loving life to the fullest! I can still hear the sound of hundreds of PASS alarms going off under “the pile,” but I have the tools to deal with them today. My sobriety date is February 3, 2004. I have not found it necessary to pick up a drink or drug since that day.

Steven is a retired firefighter lieutenant from Connecticut.

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