For the Sake of Our Nation’s Heroes ~ A Widow’s Story

by Emily Arguss

We need to start doing better. We need to learn how to support one another instead of tearing each other down. In a world where the only way out is through, it’s important to back up our brothers and sisters instead of pushing them out of the way to reach the top.

My name is Emily Agruss. I am a former military and fire wife. On September 9, 2016, my husband, Joshua Agruss, passed away following a fatal relapse of his addiction to prescription pain medication. Josh experienced a lot of trauma in his 33 years of life – much of it related to his time serving our country in Iraq and working as a firefighter and paramedic. The cultural norms of our society are currently placing a mostly negative stigma on the heroes of our nation not to seek help when they are struggling. As a direct result of this, my husband suffered in silence with symptoms of severe post-traumatic stress for many years. He never felt safe enough to ask for help. He lived in constant fear of being determined unfit for duty, being harassed for not being able to “suck it up” and from losing his job and the ability to help others – the one thing that got him out of bed each morning. This mentality is what is destroying the lives of countless individuals. It’s what is leaving thousands of spouses and children without a husband/wife and father/mother. Continue reading “For the Sake of Our Nation’s Heroes ~ A Widow’s Story”

Emotional Preparation for Retirement – Adjusting to Civilian Life for Public Safety Personnel

by Chaplain Jim Burns

Introduction

Chaplain Jim Burns
Chaplain Jim Burns

Those of us in public safety careers – law enforcement, fire service are usually gung-ho, Type A personalities, self-reliant, confident and sometimes even a little cocky. We love excitement. We feel there is nothing we can’t do; we’re self-important, helpers, fixers, we need to be needed, and we enjoy being the front-line of defense and first responders when something goes terribly wrong in our neighborhoods, our districts and our jurisdictions.

In the academy. we learn to be tough, to be a team player, to follow orders to the letter, to fit into the chain of command, to practice our particular skill sets until they become second-nature. During our years of service, we continue to train to be the best police officer, firefighter, or chaplain that we are capable of being. We learn about critical incident stress and how to manage it. We practice working under extreme stress. We train, train, and train some more. We are among the best of the best at what we do. Continue reading “Emotional Preparation for Retirement – Adjusting to Civilian Life for Public Safety Personnel”

Bulletproof Spirit: Emotional Survival and Effective Wellness Strategies

by Dan S. Willis
La Mesa Police Captain (retired)

Based upon his emotional survival guidebook: “Bulletproof Spirit: The First Responders Essential Resource for Protecting and Healing Mind and Heart” (New World Library, 2014) firstresponderwellness.com

Dan Willis
Dan Willis

Consistently being immersed in violence, tragedies, danger, evil, and suffering can often scar the spirit of any first responder. Tragically, each year more officers kill themselves than die in the line of duty, with an estimated 120,000 more suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.[1] It is essential for first responder agencies and individuals to incorporate proactive emotional survival training and wellness initiatives that nurture, protect, and heal the spirit—to bulletproof officer’s spirits to prevent them from becoming victims of their chosen profession.

The adverse effects of a career as a first responder are poisonous and cumulative. Like a cancer, dedicated yet unsuspecting officers have the potential to slowly succumb to the toxic, debilitating effects of acute stress and trauma with little training on how to effectively process the internal damage. The job has an inherent ability to turn officers into someone their loved ones no longer recognize. First responder agencies nation-wide lose far too many officers due to their inability, primarily from lack of wellness training, to prepare for and process stress and trauma in a constructive way. Losing an officer to suicide, depression, or emotional suffering should never be just part of the job. There are effective wellness practices that can work to insulate the spirit of officers and help them reach a natural retirement with a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Continue reading “Bulletproof Spirit: Emotional Survival and Effective Wellness Strategies”

Slow Death of a Firefighter

by Timothy O. Casey
Firefighter/Paramedic (retired), Published Author

Editor’s Note: After many years of coping with post traumatic stress and bouts of addiction, it is with deep sadness that I share with you that my friend lost his battle with his demons. His life tragically ended on July 31, 2015. May he rest in peace and may his family and friends find comfort in their grief.

Tim Casey
Tim Casey

Who takes care of us? Our families? They try, I know mine did. But the average or normal person cannot share our experience, they can’t imagine what we do or see.

As a firefighter/paramedic for more than 30 years, I can safely say I have pretty much seen it all. I have seen death in every incarnation and life as well. We on the front lines are not invited politely to join in the fray of life; no, we are thrust into chaos on a daily basis, it’s our job.

It is to say the least an unusual profession, no two days are alike and no two emergencies are alike. The environment is rarely predictable and the events and people even more unpredictable. Yet we go.

Who takes care of us? Our families? They try, I know mine did. But the average or normal person cannot share our experience, they can’t imagine what we do or see.

I know many days I felt like a human garbage collector, picking up the waste of society. People although fascinated with the gruesome, macabre, or terrifying only see it from a distance. We hold it in our hands and get it on the soles of our boots. Continue reading “Slow Death of a Firefighter”

Through a Glass Darkly: A Eulogy for Pastor John

Sad news…. Dr Phil Lineberger who wrote this article four years ago died by suicide on May 31, 2015. No one knows the depths of depression one person experiences. May Pastor Phil rest with his friend, Pastor John, in heaven.

by Doctor Phil Lineberger, Senior Pastor
Sugar Land (TX) Baptist Church

Editor’s Note: On February 9, 2011, Pastor John Petty died by suicide at the age of 42. John was married and had two young children. He also had a large church family and many friends, all of whom were stunned and confused by his death. Continue reading “Through a Glass Darkly: A Eulogy for Pastor John”

The Crash of 9525 – A Suicide Mission

by Renae Griggs

Renae Griggs
Renae Griggs

On March 24, 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps killing 149 passengers and crew, along with Andreas Lubitz ­ the copilot who, through skillful use of the autopilot supplemented by manual maneuvers of the plane’s speed, plowed the Airbus A320 into the mountainside. Headlines, news feeds, commentaries, and columns frenzied to somehow sanitize and characterize the horrible event for the public to more readily digest and have repeatedly referred to the copilot’s actions as “premeditated mass murder.”

Each time I see or hear it I have a visceral reaction to the attempt to neatly package in a sound bite what is an intensely complex psychological Rubik’s cube with implications far beyond airline passenger safety, pilot screening, and whether or not the industry needs to consider remote technological overrides. Continue reading “The Crash of 9525 – A Suicide Mission”

Help for Depression and Post Traumatic Stress

by Peggy Sweeney
The Sweeney Alliance

“It is an established fact that stress and traumatic events influence a person’s susceptibility to heart attacks, strokes, and other medical problems. I strongly believe that fire departments [as well as police, EMS, dispatchers] must recognize the importance of programs that focus on depression, post traumatic stress, and suicide prevention. Training them to deal with trauma, stress, and grief is no less important than training them to be safe on the fire ground.

“No longer can job-related stress in the fire service be ignored. It is the duty and responsibility of every fire service officer to provide for and enhance the emotional wellness of his or her department as well as themselves if needed. Without the support and dedication of everyone traumatic stress and grief will continue to take a toll on firefighters and their families”. ~~Peggy Sweeney Continue reading “Help for Depression and Post Traumatic Stress”