YOU’RE THERE FOR US FIRST
WE’RE HERE FOR YOU NOW
STAY FIT FOR DUTY
WITH FIRST RESPONDER PEER SUPPORT
You’ve landed here for a reason. Maybe you can’t sleep. Or you’re more edgy than usual. It could be your partner says you’re distant or you keep snapping at your kids. Maybe it just feels like burnout. And odds are, you feel like you can’t risk talking about it.
You’re not alone.
The reason we’re here for you now is because we’ve also been where you are. First Responder Peer Support is made up of trained peer specialists, who are current or former first responders or members of the military. We are here to provide confidential and free support – to you or members of your family. That means less explaining, better understanding and more useful help.
You’ve seen it all – the good, the bad and the very ugly. It’s time to talk about it. Consider it preventative maintenance. It’s a way to let some pressure out of the gauge, to keep work from getting in the way of your personal life, and to stay fit for continued duty.
Your call will be answered by United Way of Northeast Florida or 211 First Call for Help. Identify yourself as a first responder or a first responder family member, then answer a few general questions so you can be connected with the best peer specialist for you.
CONNECT WITH A FIRST RESPONDER PEER SPECIALIST
You’ll be paired with a trained peer specialist who will listen, offer support, and can identify other resources that may be available to you.
WHO IT‘S FOR
This confidential, free program is available to all current and former first responders, as well as their immediate family members, within a 20-county area throughout Northeast and Northern Central Florida.
Although there are many definitions of first responders, this program is designed for current or former firefighters, police officers, sheriffs, emergency medical services personnel, and emergency dispatchers/telecommunications operators. If you don’t fall into one of these lines of service or you live outside one of the counties served, we can still connect you to other support services. If you are a family member of a current or former first responder, we’re here for you too – even if your first responder isn’t interested in help for themselves.
Counties Served: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Nassau, Putnam, Suwannee, St. Johns, Taylor, Union, and Volusia.
HOW IT WORKS
As a first responder, you regularly answer calls that can impact your safety, your sense of humanity and justice, and your capacity for empathy. That means switching from being on-duty to off-duty is not easy. Statistically, first responders and dispatchers have higher rates of relationship issues, alcohol or drug abuse, and suicide attempts and completions.
The First Responder Peer Support Program provides a confidential opportunity to deal with whatever you have going on – whether it’s fallout from the wear-and-tear of the job or aspects of your personal life that simply add to your load. You can talk privately with someone who has been there and gets it.
Step 1: Dial 211. This is the gateway to peer support and other community resources.
Step 2: Identify yourself as a current or former first responder, or a member of a first responder family, then answer a few screening questions.
Step 3: You will be paired with a first responder peer specialist that will contact you within 24-48 hours.
Step 4: Your peer specialist will schedule a confidential, convenient phone or video conference appointment to listen to what is going on with you. They will work with you to create a long-term plan designed to help you feel better and stay fit for continued duty.
Step 5: Your peer specialist will follow up with regular check-ins over a period of up to six months.
WHY PARTICIPANTS ARE FEELING BETTER
Andy wanted to feel like a cop again. As a sergeant for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Andy has seen his fair share of tragedy. After 18 years, the same rookie who couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of his patrol car, soon dreaded going to work. The combination of going through a divorce, responding to several calls that ended in death, and butting heads with a superior officer all contributed to feelings of hopelessness. He wanted to continue the career he once loved, but knew he needed help. First, Andy reached out to fellow officers who were also going through a divorce or experiencing issues with coworkers. He wanted to confide in someone who “got” the job and the stressors that came along with it. Alongside that peer support, Andy sought out professional help as well. Soon after, Andy started to feel like himself again. Through those tough conversations, he came to terms with his marriage ending. He no longer felt like he had just given up, accepting the fact he did everything he could. Andy returned to his job with a newfound positive attitude, and thanks his peers for getting him there. He now works as the Crisis Intervention and Stress Management Team Leader for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and vows to pay it forward for the next officer who is having a tough time.
“Reach out. Don’t shut it down, go find somebody and talk to them.” – Andy
Connor* felt alone. Working in the fire department for almost ten years gave him his fair share of car crashes, stabbings, gunshot wounds, drug overdoses, and suicides. He understood it was his job to show up on someone else’s worst day. But he often worried – “what if I can’t save them?” Call after call, death after death, it started to take a toll on him. Eight years into his service, he started to feel different. Feelings of anxiety and fear took over. Soon after, a career he once loved turned into something he despised. In fact, Connor blamed himself for wanting to become a firefighter in the first place. Everyone told him it was the best career in the world. Why didn’t he feel the same? Was he the only one? Fortunately, Connor found out he was not alone. He sought out help and was connected with other firefighters who understood exactly how he felt. Through this support, he not only was able to enjoy his job again, but he got involved in helping others who were in similar positions.
“You are not alone!” -Connor
* story is real, name and picture changed for privacy