Our first responders make lots of sacrifices to protect the rest of us and this can take a toll on them, as well as their families. In a 2016 behavioral health study, roughly three-fourths of the surveyed peace officers reported having experienced a traumatic event, but less than half reported it to their agency. Even more troubling is that about half of the officers reported personally knowing a peer who changed after experiencing a traumatic event and about half reported knowing an officer who committed suicide.
First responders are trained to deal with very stressful, emotional and life-threatening situations. The culture is natural to internalize mental and emotional stress. Removing the stigma encourages them to be proactive within the workplace and reach out to peers to improve their mental and emotional health.
The Iverson Foundation for Active Awareness, founded by Ashley Iverson, the widow of CalFirefighter Cory Iverson, age 32, who died in 2017 battling the Thomas Fire, assists first responders by creating strong support systems for those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. IFFA seeks to decrease anxiety and depression, improve relationships in personal and professional lives and most importantly, reduce the suicide rate among first responders. For more information or to donate, contact https://iversonfaa.org.
Hopefully, California will soon be providing more help. I have joined Assemblyman Timothy Grayson, D-Concord, to co-author two bills, Assembly Bill 1116 and Assembly Bill 1117, which provide peer support and counseling for firefighters and police officers dealing with emotional stress. This bi-partisan legislation passed the Assembly in May and is now progressing in the Senate.
Our first responders’ burden is heavy. We owe them our respect, support and cooperation, as well as our heartfelt thanks for their willingness to put their lives on the line for our safety each and every day.
Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.