Standing on the front lines, face to face with tragedy, first responders work day-to-day saving the lives of others.
“Many people think that firefighters run into burning buildings, but the bulk of their calls are medical emergencies,” says Dr. Margaret Gavian, the founder of the Par 360 program. “Many of these personal tragedies affect them deeply because they are not robots.” But when it comes to their own mental health, Dr. Margaret Gavian, a psychologist and the medical director for the Minnesota Fire Initiative, started a program to serve as a first responder to first responders dealing with the challenges that come with the job.
“I had two firefighters come into my office, one had a plan to commit suicide and one had a previous plan to commit suicide,” says Mark Juelfs, the fire chief of the South Metro Fire Department.
South Metro Fire chief Mark Juelfs has spent more than two decades as a first responder. As a chief, he’s seen one too many firefighters seeking mental help. “Typically, as a chief, through all my education starting 25 years ago, I was never taught where two people walk into my office with a suicide plan,” says Juelfs.