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First responders talk Peer Support Team, addressing mental health concerns

First responders are helping each other out when it comes to mental wellness

Rochester, N.Y (WROC_TV) - Christmas Eve morning 2012, the West Webster Fire Department responded to a call for a house fire.

When they arrived on scene, a gunman ambushed them, killing two first responders. Captain Rob Sabin of the Webster Fire Department said he soon began wondering how firefighters were dealing with it after the fact.

"We haven't taught them how to deal with the bad things that they experience,” he explained.

So Sabin, along with the Brighton Fire Department, decided to do something about it.

They ended up forming what they now call the Peer Support Team.

"We now are a team comprised of about 25 members. We've got social workers, school psychologists, firefighters, paramedics, EMT's,” he said.

Each gets additional mental health training to know how to spot the signs that someone might need help.

And Sabin said first responders help each other, in a simple way.

"It starts with a conversation of saying, hey, how are you doing? I'm here if you need something, let's go talk.”

And it turns out, they weren't the only ones who noticed the need to get those feelings out in the open.

In 2015, Florida State University conducted a study of nearly 900 firefighters. It showed the strong relationship between post-traumatic stress symptoms, suicidal thoughts and attempts among the group.

A similar study conducted by the university that year showed over 46 percent of firefighters have thoughts about suicide.

Something Sabin said the peer support team is well aware needs to be addressed with more than a conversation.

"If something requires a higher level of activity, we have the channels to get those people the help they need.”

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