Emotional trauma for first responders


(WTNH) — Unthinkable tragedies. Forty-nine people dead, 53 injured. Days later, the search for the body of a little boy taken by an alligator at Disney World.

Different tragedies, but one thing remains the same, it’s first responders on the front lines.

“Police officers, first responders are not Teflon, things just don’t happen and bounce off of them,” said John Revell, Lead Chaplain, Life Line Chaplaincy, Inc.

In the moment, they are concerned with one thing, saving lives. When they can’t, regret and remorse kicks in.

“When the situation arises, we want to minimize causalities, we don’t want to have any, the best case scenario is that even the bad guy lives,” said Chief Foti Koskinas, Westport Police Department.

Then they go home at night, a portfolio of horrific images run through their minds.

“Their adrenal is pumping, then when it’s over, they have to deal with that, it can have an incredibly negative impact on them,” said Revell.

Revell helps first responders recover from the emotional trauma.

“So having a chaplain available to just talk about it, express frustration. I would say 90 percent of what I do is just listen,” said Revell.

For many, watching the scenes play out across the nation spurs emotions of our own tragedies, like Newtown.

“I think of when you look at events of such horrific nature, the general tendency with police officers is to relive or at least rethink about different incidents that what just as tragic maybe smaller,” said Chief Gary MacNamara, Fairfield Police Department.

It’s a time when terrorism is top of mind and mass shootings are far too common.

“I’ve heard some who have been in there career for a long time say that it’s the worst that they have seen,” said Revell.

It can lead to a difficult life outside of the job.

“So it’s no surprise that first responders are at greater risk for substance abuse, for PTSD, and unfortunately, for suicide,” said Revell.

The calls will keep coming in.

“Those images, those feelings will never go away, they will never leave the hearts and minds of our first responders. We just want to help them process it better,” said MacNamara.

Now, more than ever, there needs to be help for those dedicated to helping others.

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