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Crisis line for first responders discussed as mental health resource at local conference

Code 4 Northwest is by-- and for-- first responders.
Posted: 5:49 PM, Sep 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-16 19:49:07-04

BOISE, Idaho — First responders, such as police, firefighters, and EMS, are often exposed to some of the most emotionally taxing scenes imaginable.

"Ya know, death of a child when you have a small child at home," said Officer Steve Redmond.

Officer Redmond even referred to it as "secondary trauma."

"We're seeing the damage, we're seeing the sadness, we're seeing the pain, and we absorb little pieces away as far as what that person's dealing with."

In 2013, the longtime Seattle police officer created Code 4 Northwest -- a crisis line for first responders-- after noticing that stigmas were preventing them from getting help.

Redmond himself said he was was struggling with PTSD (also referred to as "PTSI," or post-traumatic stress injury).

"And it almost killed me because of my pride and ego."

Redmond said his own experiences of getting help with those struggles motivated him to help others, because there is a culture shift that needs to occur, according to Redmond.

"We're the 'fix-it' people. We fix everything. We are the helpers. And so, 'I should be able to fix it myself. I should be able to take care of myself,'" said Redmond. "Then there's the culture of 'sign of weakness.' You ask for help, and that's weak, because you just 'pull your big boy britches' up and move on, and that was been the culture. And that's the culture that we're trying to change."

As far as resources go, Redmond noticed there was an industry-wide fear of being removed from duty, or having a damaged reputation, if an officer let Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) or agency representatives in on their struggles. That's why he said Code 4 Northwest is even more critical as a confidential, third-party outlet.

"People weren't reaching out to their internal resources. And so, ya know, we have EAPs and things like that, but people weren't utilizing those because of the fear of who's gonna find out, how's it going to impact my career."

Redmond said the people answering the phones at Code 4 Northwest are all first responders themselves. Deputy Shawn Thomas, who also founded Monday's 1st Responders' Mental Health and Wellness Conference in Boise, is one of them.

"We want people to give them some mental health tools and stuff for their families. We want to let them know that they're not alone," said Thomas.

Please don't hesitate to dial either (425) 253-5092 (for Code 4 Northwest) or (208) 398-4357 (for Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline) for 24/7 confidential help if you or someone you love is in crisis and you need someone to talk to.

"So that we can kind of start moving forward to where there is no shame or guilt," said Redmond.

Code 4 Northwest is an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit and 501(c)(3).