Going on 13 years as a Fire/EMS Dispatcher and Law call taker for San Mateo County Public Safety Communications. One year as dispatch supervisor, two years acting supervisor, and 12 years’ experience as a line dispatcher. This is my first year on a peer support team. Currently working with the County of San Mateo to develop a peer support group specific to first responders. Also working closely with SMCO IAFF Local 2400 on their support team.
PEER SUPPORT EXPERIENCE
PEER SUPPORT & CRITICAL INCIDENT STRESS MANAGEMENT TRAINING
I feel incredibly lucky to work with such a large group of supporters from every level of care. While we all strive for the common goal of preventative care, I find each day that we are making a difference in society by being supportive of those in a role that most persons could never imagine. The role of a first responder is like no other. We are on duty 24/7, we live and breathe our jobs, and we find we are all family is the crazy world of uncertainty.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING ON THE SAN MATEO CO. CISM TEAM?
I enjoy being part of a greater solution in preventative health for first responders. I am an advocate for self-care and awareness of the effects of cumulative stress on first responders. I appreciate knowing that I can make a difference by listening, and enjoy being part of the success of our industry.
WHY IS PEER SUPPORT IMPORTANT FOR ME?
My father is a retired fire engineer with 38 years on the job. He was diagnosed with PTSD in the late 80’s/early 90’s when there was little or no help for his condition. He had a long career that was labeled with the stigma that it was not ok to need or ask for help. I watch him today, 25 years after retirement, still struggling with his past and the damage of having little support by his department or peers. While his condition is treatable, I recognize that now is the time for change…not after the damage is done. It is my goal to break down the stigma, help others understand the damage that can occur, and provide resources to those who need the assistance to get better. If I can make a change for one first responder, I am doing a great thing.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN ABOUT PEER SUPPORT 10 YEARS AGO?
I wish I had understood the difference between peer support and CISM. I had always assumed critical incident care was lumped into ONE thing. Truly it is a combination of several components coming together, each with a role in behavioral health. I always assumed you had to be a clinician to help others. It is true that the clinical aspect is a huge part of it, however there are many ways other peers with minimal training can contribute to the success of a peer support program.
WHY SHOULD PEER SUPPORT BE A PRIORITY AT A DEPARTMENT?
Just like any formal training for safety, procedures, policy, and information, employees need to know the reason for good behavior health. All aspects of mental Health tie into physical health and the ability to perform effectively in your job. You risk liability to your agency and yourself if you do not practice self-care and resiliency. In the long run, retention and financial gains are imminent for departments who work to prevent injury and long term illness in their employees. Along with that…it is the right thing to do.