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Public Safety
Heart behind every badge
Explaining mental health for first responders, their families

If you’re related to a first responder, it’s no secret a career in public safety takes a toll on the responder’s mental health, especially while serving a small, close-knit community like we have in Sheridan County. There are not enough pages in the paper to discuss all of the emotional, physical and behavioral aspects of being a first responder, but I thought I would touch on a few.

Serving as a first responder automatically signs you and your family up for a goofy, chaotic schedule. It often means missed family meals, birthdays, events, holidays and celebrations. In today’s society, first responders, especially law enforcement officers, are faced with public scrutiny, and family members are sometimes confronted with tough questions from the community regarding an agency’s stance on contentious local and national topics.

On any given shift, first responders are called to respond to emergencies throughout our county. These emergencies often require the response from all of the public safety sectors including law enforcement, fire and EMS. Incidents include car accidents, death investigations including homicides and suicides, crimes against people including children and adults and the list goes on. Hugs are longer and “I love yous” are always sincere when a first responder leaves for work, since there is always the possibility they may not come home at the end of their shift.

Now one may say, “Well, they signed up for it.” You’re right, we did. But that doesn’t mean seeing tragedy on a daily basis and other stressors of the job doesn't affect first responders and their mental health.

We are expected to be strong for you and your loved ones at your most vulnerable time. Sometimes, it may even seem like we have no emotion, but believe me when I say we care. Just ask my wife.

She’ll tell you the tragedy I’ve seen over the last 18 years weighs heavily on my heart. She sees it when I come home and hold our boys after a rough day, or when I wake suddenly in the middle of the night because an incident won’t escape my mind. First responders are human, and there is a heart behind every badge.

Law enforcement on the local, state and national level is aware of the mental health issues seen in first responders. Fortunately, academies and agencies across the nation have taken measures to assist with preparing responders and their families on how to navigate the hardships of the profession.

We’ve learned throughout the years that the key to a successful career in public safety is prevention. Preparing first responders and their families on what to look out for mentally and physically decreases the likelihood of a mental health crisis, unsuccessful career and broken relationships within a first responder’s home.

While hardships do arise throughout the years of serving, it’s a sacrifice we are all willing to make because a career in public safety is, without a doubt, one of the most rewarding professions. The Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the community for the continued support it shows daily toward its local first responders.

It is, and will always be, a pleasure serving Sheridan County.


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