Steven is a 20-year veteran of Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. During his time with the Sheriff’s Office Steven also spent seven years assigned as a Task Force Officer for the US Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force based in Pensacola, FL. While serving a warrant with the task force Steven was shot numerous times, including once in the face. As a result of his actions, Steven was awarded the Congressional Badge of Bravery, United States Marshal’s Purple Heart, and the Medal of Valor from Santa Rosa County. Steven has since retired from the Okaloosa county Sheriff’s Office and is currently working as an inspector with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
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Hi everyone, and welcome to this week's episode of Enduring the Badge podcast. I'm host Jerry Dean Lund, and I don't want you to miss an upcoming episode, and so please hit that subscribe button. And while your phone's out, please do me a favor and give us a review on iTunes, our Apple podcast. It says, Hey, this podcast has a great message and we should send it out to more people.
So please take that 30 seconds to a minute to do that review and just maybe by doing that, it'll push this up into someone's podcast feed that really needs this message. Hey everyone. Before we jump into this next episode, I want to talk to you about the two coaching programs I offer. I offer one on relationships, and I offer one on mindset.
The relationship program is very extensive and dives down deeply into your relationship so you can know. Is making it great and know what is not making it great and how to solve those problems. And I know it's very difficult these days, especially if we're just being moms and dads and running around in this crazy world.
Our relationships can go from thriving to barely surviving. And I know if you're like me, you want your relationship to last forever. My other program is on mindset. I want you to have the mindset that is going to help you discover your inner wisdom and motivation and is gonna cause you to grow to your truest potential.
That that mindset is gonna make you successful, not just on the job, but off the job, where it's just as important to be successful and that will create the life that you desire for a lifetime. My very special guest today, It's Stephen Huff. He is a co-founder of First Health, and he just didn't happen to firm this nonprofit organization.
He was involved in a officer-involved shooting and was able to see the gaps in the organization and the gaps to help others pull through things like that. First Health also deals with suicide and how to help those families and how to help those first responders that are struggling with their mental health.
Now let's jump into this episode with Steven. Doing good? Doing good. How you doing, Jerry? I'm doing great. Thank you so much. Thank you for taking the time to be on today. Absolutely. I appreciate it. I appreciate you having us on. So, uh, it's a, it's a privilege to be on your podcast. Yeah, yeah. Thank you so much.
Steven. Introduce the audience to yourself and what's your and uh, first. Okay, so, uh, currently I am serving as the Chief Operations Officer for First Help. Uh, First Help is our organization that takes care of our, uh, families of first responders that we lose to suicide, and also we provide that education piece and the advocacy piece to, uh, legislation and changes of law and that sort of thing for the families.
So, currently, as you know, uh, line of duty deaths are, uh, there are benefits out there for line of duty deaths. There are no benefits up until recently, uh, for those we lose to suicide. So that's one of the big. Pieces that we do. The biggest thing we do though, is we take care of our families, uh, of those first responders we lose.
And then we also provide that educational piece where we go out and teach responder readiness to prepare our firefighters, our EMTs, our paramedics, and our law enforcement guys and communications, uh, to understand the, the effects of stress, how we can, uh, subvert some of those effects, uh, in our daily lives, either at home or while we're at work.
So, as for me, I'm 25 year veteran of law enforcement. Just retired in j uh, July, not January. I wish it was January , but, uh, just retired in July. Uh, I served at both Okaloosa and Walton County Sheriff's Office in the panhandle of Florida. So, yeah, and the first help just didn't happen. Uh, Happenstance. Yeah.
Happenstance. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. No, we started as blue help. So originally we started with first responders. The reason it came about is the co-owners, or the co-founders, myself, uh, Jeff McGill and Karen Solomon. Uh, Jeff and I were involved in a shootout where I got shot in the face and a couple times in the leg, uh, wound up killing the guy.
But the, uh, it quickly became apparent that that organizations were not well equipped to handle officers who survived those types of traumatic incidents or deal with, uh, Officers that have a, uh, traumatic incident due to accumulative stress. Yeah. So, uh, Karen actually wrote a couple of books. Uh, the Price They Pay, uh, was one her and Jeff, uh, Co-Wrote and Hearts Beneath the Badge was the first book where she told our story.
Um, uh, she affected, uh, affectionately referred to me as chapter five. Uh, all the time I did, I had to ask her. I was like, Do you even know my name? Um, just chapter five. That's all I am. So, uh, but, but from there we said, Hey, we gotta do more. And that's where Blue Help was born. Went through a couple of iterations to get things going.
2016, uh, we, we got everything squared away for non-profit status and we started collecting, uh, or making it known. We collected beforehand, but we started making it known. We were collecting that suicide data. And since then we've amassed, uh, we've got a record now of over 1800 entries of, of first responders that are, uh, all over the place.
Corrections, law enforcement, fire, ems, all of them. And, and you know, that's a big part of the awareness piece is going, Look, look, this is a bigger problem than, than line of duty deaths for, uh, for the mar for the large part of us. Right? So it's something that needs to be contended with. It's something that we need to really, seriously look at.
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Go ahead. And then from there and, and then from there, that's where we came up with first help and first help incorporates all first responders. So now that's why we're, uh, pushing to the, the overarching umbrella of First Help. Yeah. That's, that's a massive group of people ar around, around the world.
Um, absolutely includes, right, Full-time, part-time volunteer. Like there's a massive yes. Amount of people that are involved in the first responder world. Absolutely. And then, and then think about this then tack on, uh, those that, um, and we've heard this many a time, you know, those that didn't sign up to be part of that community, which are sometimes spouses, sometimes moms and dads, sometimes brothers and sisters, right?
Sure. Um, and you know, when you start, uh, adding those factors in or those different family, uh, pieces or equations in, man, the list just becomes exponential at that. Yeah, if I look at my, my little, just the neighborhood that I'm in, there's quite a few first responders just themselves in this tiny little neighborhood.
So once you think of the, a cumulative effect, far as each of the lives that they touch is. Is tremendous, tremendous. AB absolutely is. I mean, it just, uh, we've seen this a hundred times. If we've seen it once, when one of us get injured, or God forbid one of us get killed in a line of duty or by suicide, uh, the, the outward spread of how it affects just gets larger and larger and larger.
So, um, I could tell you when I got shot, I received letters from England, uh, these folks, uh, somebody who knew, somebody who knew me got the, a bunch of kids to write a bunch of letters to me, uh, from England, you know, so it's, it just, it just. Reaches so far out when, when one of us is, is either struggling or gets hurt.
Yeah. So it, it it's a, uh, it's quite the interesting piece to think about when, uh, you don't think about it when you are, uh, just doing your day to day stuff, but yeah. When you actually are injured or you're taken outta service for whatever reason, that's when you start seeing that effect take place. And it's, it could be, it could be jaw dropping at times.
Right? Yeah. Um, can we dive down into your, your situation far as what happened with your shooting and, and how you handled that? Oh yeah, absolutely. So, um, it was, it was 11 years ago, coming up on 12 years ago now. Uh, I was working with the Marshalls task force in, um, uh, in the Pensacola area of Florida. Uh, the, the panhandle area.
We went to go serve a warrant. The guy came out, he actually had two pistols in his hand and came out firing, uh, almost like Butch Cassidy. So, um, at that point, uh, you know, we were shooting at him and I wound up shooting him. Uh, he shot me at the same time I got hit in the face. Uh, Jeff, who was the other co-founder, he's been my partner for, for forever at that point.
So, uh, he literally sees me get shot in the face and then, uh, obviously rushed to the. Um, we had, uh, studied, or he and I were both in the middle of getting our degrees done. He was working on a master's, I was working on a bachelor's. And, uh, we had studied the effects of stress, of post-traumatic stress, whether that be incidental stress or, or that accumulative stress.
Mm-hmm. . But, but it was definitely a different, uh, it's one thing to read about it, Jeff, different thing to live it, right? So you think you, you think you're equipped, you think you, you understand what's going on, but then when it happens, you kinda, you kinda lose that control. And, uh, you know, mine started, uh, kind of early on, I had panic attacks while I was in the hospital.
And then from there it went to a lot of the things we hear all the time, anger issues. Isolation issues. I just didn't want anybody to be around me. I tuck myself away during Christmas time. I didn't wanna be around family or anything like that. So, uh, and you know, that battle has been continuous. So, uh, it's just one of those things.
It's, it's definitely a, a, a for cliche, it's the new normal, right? You've just gotta learn to learn to push through it. Some days are better than others. Some days are not as good as others. So, yeah. Uh, you know, like I said, it's, it's an ongoing journey. It'll probably continue on till I'm no longer on the earth, so , uh, but I'm here, uh, I've got my family, I've made it to retirement, so, uh, life is pretty good.
Life is good. So yeah, that's quite something to survive, you know, being shot, that's one being shot in the face. That's a whole nother level of, I feel like, of trauma. Oh, yeah. Especially a personal trauma. Yes, no doubt. Um, you know, afterwards, of course, I, I read, uh, I read a lot of stories of other officers who were injured, other, uh, first responders who were injured and, um, you know, each one has their own kind of unique little perspective on it.
Sure. And, and some of the things that, that I was reading is some of the guys don't wanna look at, you know, their injuries because those are triggers for 'em. Yeah. They just don't wanna, they don't, they kind of wanna put that in the back. Whereas, uh, uh, you know, that would be awesome. But, you know, when you get shot, uh, particularly in the facial area or in the neck or in the head, uh, you kind.
You're, you kind of have to really learn how to deal with that. You know, I gotta shave. Oh, I don't have to shave anymore. But , when I, when I had to shave, you know, I had to look in the mirror every day, look at the mirror, I have to see where the trach was. I have to see that half of this nose piece is blown off.
So it's just one of those things that I had to, uh, grow into and, and, you know, understand, look, this is just the way it's gonna be and, and press forward from there. So, uh, you know, my hat's off to a lot of the first responders and, uh, that, that, uh, That are struggling as well as those that have kind of found their way out.
Right? Yeah. Cause we don't ever really truly find our way back to where we were. I, I just, I just don't know if that is even possible. Yeah. We could get close, but I just don't know if it's possible. So, uh, whenever I hear about it, whenever I see it, yeah. I'm like, Man, brother, I'm right there with you. You know, sister, I got you.
I, I know what I've been there, done that. I know what it's like. So, yeah, I think it's difficult for people that haven't. I mean, there's a significant amount of injuries that happen in the first responder world, and, uh, if you can go your career without having one, that's, that's pretty amazing. And I, that is, yeah, so like that's getting pretty rare, um, you know, to, to be in that world.
Uh, you know, I, I hurt my knee. I was out for 500 days, and it really did, uh, change my life. I mean, it, it, it spiraled, it downwards, like the whole Oh, yeah. E everything in life just seemed to like, crumble apart to the point where you get in that very dark place that you feel like you can't, you know, unbury yourself out from, and that, you know, you just look at yourself and I was just like, I'm, I'm just, you know, I'm defined by my job, what I do for my career.
I'm defined by that. Yeah. And if I can't do that, then really what good am I. Even if you're a father or a mother or you know, brother and sister, I, I feel like it's not uncommon to go through something like that. Yeah, it is. Uh, and you know, the worst part about it is, uh, you hit the nail on the head, you know, uh, it doesn't matter what, uh, what discipline within our community you have, uh, we all have.
Uh, what is I, I don't know a good way to say it other than, uh, almost like being control freaks, right? Yeah. We're always, we're always in charge. We're always, It doesn't matter if you are fighting a fire or you're picking out what's for dinner for the ump teeth hundred time, right? You are in control. And when that is taken away from you, uh, uh, just as, just as you mentioned with, with a knee injury, um, you know, where you're outta work for a year and a half, uh, the, the identity piece of that and having something that you can't control, like you have right?
Zero, you have zero control over it. You may wanna walk, but, you know, you try and stand up and your knee hurts like hell and docs, like I told you, so you can't walk for, you know, you can't walk for a month or two. Um, you know, that, that hurts the psyche. It, it really does. And right. , that's when other things start to implode and, and we have to be aware of that.
Uh, and you've hit it, hit the nail on the head with, you know, it could be a, a tr a traffic crash. Mm-hmm. , you could be driving into your fire truck or your patrol car or whatever, somebody slams into you. Not that you know, it's, you hear about, you go to traffic crashes every day. Yeah. You deal with those things every day and then bam, here it is.
You're in that seat and they're like, Oh, you're outta work. Uh, you're outta work. Uh, you're not, you're a firefighter, but you're not Yeah. You're, you're not doing the job Right. You're not where you were. Yeah. So it's, it takes its toll. It does. Yeah. You definitely have to form a new, uh, perspective on, on life.
Quickly . Yeah. Quickly. Yeah. It's not like it, Yeah. It's not like life gives you time. Yeah. So, uh, it's, uh, one day you have an injury and two weeks later you're starting to spiral. Right. Uh, be because it, your life was like that. It was changed. So, Most definitely, and that's, you know, that's what first help that we get, that we understand, that we know with our families and with our first responders that look, these things happen at the drop of a.
and, uh, especially with the families of officers, we've lost, man. We've heard some stories that are just, Oh, they're, they're horrible. I wouldn't wish it all my worst enemies, right? Yeah. Families losing insurance, like the very next day families, uh, they would, the people that they thought were friends were, were, would not come around anymore.
You know, those kinds of things. I mean, a, a whole life shift occurs within, within seconds. Yeah. And, and that's a hard, hard struggle to come back from. Do you think? What that shift in life that happens in seconds has a lot to do with maybe you wanting to be self su like so many people like secluding themselves after something like this happens?
Um, I, I could see that. I could most definitely understand that, you know? Um, That whole thing of, of, uh, of having an incident like this or, uh, happened to a loved one or happened to a family member, that whole thing will just uproot to the point where you're like, I just need a minute to decompress and to figure, figure some things out.
That's what I need. And, um, you know, I could see where, uh, um, coworkers and other friends would want to give you that time. Right. But I've also been on the flip side of that. Yeah. Where I've had people come up to me a year later and said, Steve, I wanted to come see you. I just. So they themselves had such a hard time dealing with it.
And that's one of the things that, uh, you know, we feel, I feel horrible for some of the families, a lot of the families that we have in our, uh, in our non-profit groups. But, uh, the other thing is, is, uh, I listen to their stories and I understand that, you know, they feel like they're all left with no one.
Mm-hmm. . And, and it's always, you always come back to yourself. You always go, Why? Why are they not coming to help me? Well, maybe they don't. They themselves need that very same help. Yeah. They themselves cannot deal with this, just like you cannot deal with it. So it is such a, it is such a unique dynamic with dealing with family members and then coworkers and friends, and even.
Even the, the clerks down at the, you know, Home Depot that you used to see every day when you were on your day off because you were always fixing up stuff. Yeah. You know, they, they will have a hard time dealing with that type of loss. And, and so it's, it's hard to take yourself out of that, that epicenter of why doesn't somebody take care of me and look at the, the outer edges of it and say, Wow, everybody is hurting.
Mm-hmm. . And that's, that's a, um, that's, that's a, it takes a long time to get to a place like that where you can look outside of yourself, but, um, but you know, we recognize that those families need that help and, um, that's what we provide. We try to help 'em however we can. Yeah. Life is very fragile and we all know it changes within, within a blink of an eye.
You. Do you also think that maybe that, just like when you see someone that has gone through something like that, that it brings maybe some of that closer to home and you know, like brings up, stirs up those inner emotions like, well if that happened to Steven, this could happen to me and I don't wanna think about that.
Yep, absolutely. And that's the, we are the, we are the worst. Human beings are the worst about that, right? Um, we, uh, we deal with those negative thoughts or those thoughts of, Well, am I prepared? What if I go to work and, and maybe it's not a suicide, maybe a dump truck runs me over, or I'm walking the dog and I fall over from a heart attack.
You know, one of the things that I did personally was I made sure that my family was taken care of after that. Right? So, That, that brought a lot of stressors off of me because I was in the hospital, they were talking about retiring me. Uh, you know, that's a, that's a huge hit, uh, for a family. I just had a baby when I got shot.
So, you know, um, those are things that afterwards, the, the after effect of, of losing someone like that or almost losing someone like that, you know, uh, it just depends on perspective at that point. And, and my perspective was, I gotta take care of, I gotta make sure they're taken care of. Uh, I don't plan on getting shot again, however, if, if something were to happen, I just wanna make sure they're, they're, they're well taken care of.
So, uh, you know, just all about perspective. Yeah. So finances are a big piece of this, of, of. What makes the situation very, I don't know, complicated and draining and just very tough to, to get through when you add that financial component. Ab Abso absolutely. And you could speak to this probably just as much as I can, right?
Uh, because I guarantee, uh, I don't wanna guarantee, but I would imagine that, uh, just being around other firefighters and understanding that community, uh, a lot of firefighters have, uh, run their own businesses on the side. Yeah. Cuz they're off for two or three days or they work, they do other things. Yeah.
So, um, when, like, let's say Jerry gets injured and his knee gets injured, that is, that's two incomes, Basical. Getting taken out of the picture. Yeah. And be, before that you were still dealing with, uh, mortgage payments, car payments, credit card bills, maybe setting up the kids college accounts, uh, you know, life.
Right. Easiest way to say it. Life. Yeah. And, and now life throws you that knuckle ball and now you're without additional income. Yeah. So, uh, you know, that was, that was huge to me. Uh, Me too. You know, You know, it's just one of those things that I was like, I cannot, I, I just, I would, wouldn't feel like a man if I did, you know, You know what I mean?
Being provider, provider, that kinda, Yeah. That alpha way, you know, you've, you've got to provide for your family. So that was one of the things I made sure that that was squared away. Yeah. Yeah. No, I was working a couple extra jobs that, you know, I had to take leave from and, you know, eventually, I had had a motorcycle that had saved up for a really long time.
I bought this motorcycle, you know, the one that, that I wanted. Right. And I can't ride it now. And you know, that just so I gotta sell it right. Financially, I gotta sell it. Plus it just sits there. I'm not a person, like when something sits there, it torment me. Like if I'm not using it, this is go, like, it's gotta go
Yeah, no doubt, No doubt. I'm, I'm the same way. So, uh, you know, these are, these are the things that, that we have to deal with. And then when you think about it on the family side of things, especially losing a, a loved one to suicide, right? Yeah. Uh, there's, um, that, that is a definite ending. That is a, there is no, I can do another job.
We could do this, we could do that. Yeah. Life is immediately flipped. It is 180 flipped. And to have to, uh, Deal with the immediate after, after effects, not just the long term after effects is something that, you know, we wanna make sure that the families understand. Look, we can, we can give you those technical pieces to say, Look, if you're having a bad day, try doing this.
Do that, do this to deal with those daily stressors, Um, and then help them hopefully rebuild so we can change their course in the future. Yeah. We don't, we don't want them to, to be struggling the rest of their lives. Some of them will. There's, there's no question about it. But if we could provide the comfort and the education to say, Look, you know, we want you to be better, we want you to move forward, um, then, then we're all about it.
Yeah. It would be hard to lose a loved one from suicide and then think about. Rebuilding your life and how that's gonna take place or, or when that could start taking place. Absolutely. I mean, you're talking, it could be, it could be two years from now, it could be five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years.
Who knows? It just, nobody, There's, there's no set time limit on what it's gonna take for somebody to recover. You may recover quicker than me. I may recover quicker than others. Yeah. Or it may take me longer. So, uh, you know, it just, it's, it's a hard road. It is a hard road. Yeah. There's definitely, You can't put a time timeframe to it.
No. At all. Not at all. No. But it's, it's critical to have those, those pieces like that first help offer. Um, a lot of people are probably in these situations that really don't know where to go to for help or how to get. Yes. And, and the other piece of the puzzle we've gotta consider is sometimes now is not the time for help.
They want to, you know, uh, they want to be able to kind of take care of things themselves. They're, uh, they're hurting sometimes they're, uh, ashamed because it doesn't matter if it's suicide for, for a law enforcement guy or somebody on the street, nobody wants to talk about that, right? Yeah. That's a, that's like a taboo subject.
So with. With those families that are able to come forward and go, Hey, look, we need help. We don't know what to do. Um, we're, we definitely are there to provide that for them. You know, we can get them in touch with, uh, these different organizations that, that help help them deal with those stressors. The grief, the, uh, growth.
Uh, we do, uh, dinner events every year where we bring in, I think this year we brought in 260 family members. Oh wow. Where they, where they came in and sat down and, and we gave them a nice dinner and we said, Hey, we're not gonna forget you or your loved ones, you know, to let them know there's people there.
Uh, Camp April, we just did Camp April, where we bring the, The kids come in, uh, they have a good time, they get to play, but they also, uh, get to understand a little bit of the process among their own peers, among people their age. Cuz you know, as well as I do, parents are stupid, right? We don't, we don't know what we're talking about
So, so we can, we can bring these kids in, especially the young ones, we could bring them in and they could play with one another and understand, hey, they're not alone. So, uh, we do mission ready retreats where we bring in, uh, first responders and say, Hey, look, we know you're struggling. Let's. You know, set up campfire every night and let's, let's get rid of some demons while we're here.
So, uh, there are plenty of different opportunities within first help to, uh, help guide those families, uh, in a direction that is, that is positive that they can start moving forward. Yeah. Do you find a big portion of the families part of their fears or that their loved one will be forgotten? Oh yeah. No doubt.
Uh, and the majority of 'em, they have been, uh, we are, we're seeing that shift. But, you know, five, 10 years ago, there was no, um, providing a, uh, a full service burial for an officer or a firefighter that committed suicide. Yeah. It was kind of kept low key. The families kind of had to deal with their thing.
Uh, there was no honors, there was no, there was none of that. Right. But we're starting to see that. That shift, that shift in culture. We're seeing the younger guys who are more and gals who are more in touch with themselves, more able to express their feelings and say, Hey, uh, you know, they're not like me, like a 50 something year old guy that says, ah, you should never talk about your feelings.
Yeah. Uh, you know, they're more in tune with that. And I think we're gonna see that cultural shift within the first responder communities to say, Hey, look, um, we get it. The struggles are real. Uh, we should honor them. We should take care of them just as what, as we would with other individuals that we lose.
Yeah. I think you're right. I think the younger generation definitely has a different, uh, perspective on, on this career. Being a first responder, I feel like they are maybe learning a better balance or trying to learn a better balance in their lives that. This is a job and it's, and it's a career and it's an amazing one, but I have a life outside of that.
Yes. Hey everyone, have you lost that loving feeling because life has you so stressed out and you're just being moms and dads now and just running around like crazy and the passion in your relationship is gone and you don't make it a priority anymore. Well, let me help you with that. I offer a free 15 minute discovery call that you can book on in during the badge website, or you can just reach out to me on any my social media platforms and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Yeah. And, and even when you, when you think about that, you know, uh, you get home and you take off your super band suit, right? You, you take off your uniform, maybe jump in the shower, whatever your ritual is to kind of slough the day off to get rid of it, then what do you walk into? You walk into, gotta pay the bills.
Little, little, Jimmy got an F in, in English the other day. Uh, you walk into life just like the rest of us, Right. Just, just like everybody else. And, and that's another piece of that puzzle that we discuss is, you know, um, I'm sure, uh, I'm sure firefighters do the same thing as cops. When, when we go eat somewhere, uh, we're, we find it hard to just enjoy a meal with the family cuz we're always scanning, we're always looking Yeah.
We're always, uh, doing different things because 10, 12 hours out of our day, our lives every day, that's what we do. Yeah. So, so to be able to have yet to meet anyone that has been able to say, Works over. I'm not, I'm not a fireman anymore. I'm not a paramedic anymore. I'm a, I'm dad. Yeah. Husband. Uh, and, and you get to do that from time to time, but if you go out, you go do different things, you always revert back into maybe not fully.
Yeah. But you're definitely, uh, your, your spy senses are, are up and running when you're out and about. So, yeah. So it's just one of, it's, it's a full life concept, Right? That work life balance. It is a life concept that we've gotta wrap our heads around and say, Look, you know, there's stressors at the job.
There are stressors at home. We could deal with these stressors, We could deal with these, uh, with various techniques regardless of what your belief is or, or how you wanna go. And they work for everybody. They work for, uh, the first responder they work for. The spouses, they work for the significant others, They work for anybody.
And it's important that we understand that piece of it is, you know, you chose the job, but they're living the life. Yeah. Uh, they have to take the kids to the ball games on the weekends when you're working. Uh, they have to go pick up the young ones from school or fixed dinner because you're working overtime.
You know, Uh, we don't, we can't just say it's our life because it, it affects so many other people. Right, Right. The crazy, the crazy schedule definitely, Yeah. Affects everything. And, uh, you know, it's hard I think on the spouses and the children and stuff like that to understand, you know, what's taking place.
Um, other than, you know, dad or mom is always seems to be working. That's a fact. And that's, uh, you know, I've made a, uh, a very conscious effort this last year to, uh, to go talk to my boy, go see him in his bedroom cuz you know how kids are. He's 12 years old, so , he wants to go lock himself in his bedroom all night.
Yeah. And it's like, no. So I go bust up in there and hey, what's going on? How was the day? You know, just trying to keep that interaction moving. Um, because now I have that opportunity and, and, and it's important to me, so. Yeah. Yeah. I hate, we so often, I think, at least for me, get hung up on a lot of different things and we miss a lot of those opportunities for those interactions that are very important to her children.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Couldn't agree more. So education is huge part of this, of, of, of first help. And I think getting in front of, uh, incidents before they happen. Yes, absolutely. Go ahead. Go ahead Jerry. Oh yeah. So I mean, you do these camps and retreats and do these, these other things, but what's the other educational component?
So what we offer and, and we've been gracious enough to been given a, uh, a grant by FirstNet, which is of course built by at and t. Um, they have, uh, allowed us to build out a responder readiness module, or a readiness module, I should say, uh, in which we educate, uh, responders, supervisors, family members, and, uh, clinicians.
So we have, all of those are separate modules. Uh, we offer a train the trainer piece so that you could take it back to your organization and, and train your people on, on the same concepts and the same techniques that we're teaching, uh, everybody across the United States. And, and we opened that up because, you know, it's, uh, we started first Help started with Blue Help, which was that right side.
Of stress or the right side of those traumas, which means the aftermath, right? Mm-hmm. . So, uh, we felt it was just important to get to the left side of that, which, uh, which comes into that prevention piece and that educational piece, and say, Hey, look, you know, uh, if we can get you to just focus one degree off of any particular path that you are walking down, that's gonna change a trajectory of where you end up in the future.
So if we could provide this training and go, uh, and, and get you. Starting to think about these concepts and, and understanding these are not new concepts. These have been around for as long as we have had history. There have been writings about these techniques that, that we use that are tried and true and, um, If we could get people thinking in that place and having those hard conversations with some of our buddies who, who we think are struggling a little bit, you know, we have, we have the, the possibility to be an influencer, to influence somebody, to move in a better space and to move to a different location within their lives to where they can start understanding and dealing with those stressors and grow from it and understand it's a part of a process and then moving forward from there with their families, with their significant others and everybody comes out ahead.
So it's, it's really a big piece of, of the puzzle that, um, that we're very proud of because we wanna make sure, we definitely want to take care of our families, but we also want, we don't want people on our list. We want to see them. Be able to understand and grow. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and go on to live a good life and retire and enjoy those things that all of us wanna enjoy.
Right. That's one of the reasons why we got into this service right. Was so we could retire, so we could make it through it and retire and enjoy, um, you know, those pensions that we so well earned. You got it. Absolutely correct. What way do you suggest to reach out to someone that may be struggling or you think may be struggling?
Well, I will tell you that, that, uh, part of our training process, part of that educational piece is, um, is, uh, a piece that, it's called, uh, results Oriented Communication. Okay. And with that, uh, we talk about having that conversation, but not. , focusing the conversation on the individual who's struggling.
Focus it on us. The ones that start the conversation, Hey, I see this, I, I heard you talking on the phone. I saw you were upset. You know, focus on what we're observing and, and how that conversation comes about with talking to them. Talking about them, but not necessarily talking about them. Right? Yeah. Yeah.
So you are literally having a conversation and going, Look, brother, this is what I see. This is what I feel. I think you're struggling. Um, let's do something about it. And then the conversation piece, and I don't wanna get too, too deep into it. Mm-hmm. , that conversation piece goes from conversation to action.
So it, it goes from what our observations are, what we wanna make sure of, and then, Hey, what are we gonna do about it? So that's when it moves into, Hey, let's, let's set up an appointment with a counselor. Hey, let's set up an appointment with a financial advisor. I'll go with you, I'll help you out. And then that continues on even after the conversation piece, because after their appointment, what do we wanna do?
We wanna reach back out to 'em and go, Hey, how'd your appointment go? Oh, I didn't go. Oh, you didn't go? Okay, so let's, let's, How about you and I go next time? Right, Right. Um, and, and it's, it's important that for us, everybody has busy lives. Everybody is, is dealing with some level of stressor at some point in time.
However, take that time for your buddy. It's not going to, it's not gonna. An hour outta your day. It's, it's going to, you know, one hour is well worth it. If I see Jerry's having a hard time and I need to go with him, I'm gonna go with him. Yeah. I'll sit in the, I'll sit in the, uh, you know, I'll sit in the lobby and read a book while you're talking to whoever you need to talk to.
That's fine. That's, that's fine by me. Better that than the alternative. So, um, those kinds of conversations, there's, there's different ways to approach it. That's the way we really key in on is, you know, having that, that result at the end that starts to move that trajectory that I talked about earlier.
Yeah. It takes courage by another person to ask a person if they're struggling. Oh, absolutely. It does. It is. Um, uh, and you know, the interesting part about that is, if you think about it, when we go on our calls for service, How many times have we walked up to a perfect stranger and said, Hey, are you thinking about hurting yourself?
Are you thinking about killing yourself? Yeah, right. But when it comes to my buddy right next to me, I can't have that conversation. It's, it's, it's a, it is a hard, hard conversation to have without question. And, um, there's, there's no easy way to do it. There's no easy way around it. It's just, um, you know, I mean, you do what you gotta do.
You do the same thing over and over again, day in and day out for 20 years for people you don't know. Take that time to help somebody that you do know and that you do care about. I would imagine, um, most people are worried about asking that question because they're concerned about their friendship or how the other person is gonna react to that question.
Absolutely not just friendship, profession, right? Yeah. I mean, that is, that is a huge piece of this, is that, um, if, if they find out I'm having a hard time, they're gonna, they're gonna bench me. They're gonna put me in a desk, uh, they're gonna do this, They're gonna take my gun away, they're gonna take me out of the communications room, they're gonna do whatever.
And, um, sometimes you're absolutely right. But, uh, one of the things that, that we need to consider, um, when we have our discussions is we need to under, we need to let them know that, hey, we're here for you. Yeah. Not the profession. We're here for you. Right. Profession comes second. You come first. And that's a, uh, that is, that is by far a, a very, very hard conversation for both to engage in.
Um, because one understands they may, they may lose that job. Yeah. Better they lose that job than what Better lose that than your own life. Yeah. You know, there's no other way to say it better to do that and, and that, you know, that's not an easy conversation for a buddy of 10, 15, 20 years to have with a friend to say, Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about this, but this may cost you your career.
Right, right. I think as, uh, when you're in the supervisory roles and you're overseeing people, I think that makes it even more challenging to have those conversations. Oh, yeah. There's no doubt. There's no doubt because always in the back of the mind, you may be friends off of work, but when you come to 'em with a conversation like that, They may not be, they may be looking at you as a friend, but they're gonna be looking at you also as their lieutenant or their, or their battalion chief or whatever that case may be.
So, uh, there's, it's just, it is, uh, there's so many dimensions in that conversation to, to have to work around. It is, it's a hard one. It is a hard one. Yeah. But that's one of the things we teach. We teach that, that effective way of having a conversation that number one doesn't put blame on them, but number two, results in some type of reaction that we get them to help themselves.
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I read an article and it was written a few years ago, and I think it has a lot of place in today's society and it talks about, you know, we've had a lot of discussion about what we need to do, but now is it time to take action? Absolutely. What we know, So I think there's, in the bulk of probably the first responder world, there's definitely, the discussion is becoming more and more, um, it's not something that can be like, brushed under the rug cuz it's, it's happening and people are quitting, retiring, um, or yeah, taking their own lives because of a lot of what's happened on the, on the job.
Absolut. Yeah, absolutely. And we still, we've got a long way to go. Yeah. Uh, we have got such a long way to go. We've seen so many other organizations that have, have that understand the concept and have gotten on board with it. They either have peer support teams in place, or they have, um, uh, dedicated team of individuals with counselors offsite away in a non-disclosed, uh, non-descript building that you can go and, and talk with.
And that's great. That's awesome. But the flip side of that coin is we also still have, uh, chiefs and, uh, other administrators, sheriffs and, and, and the like that will say that it's a coward's way out. We're never going to, uh, we're never gonna support it. We're never going to recognize it. So we're still battle, we're still on both ends of the spectrum and Yeah.
But we're moving there. There is movement. So that's the best thing. Most definit. Yeah, I, I just kind of wonder where, and I look back, I've been doing this for 33 years mm-hmm. , um, just where we were never, I was never taught like what to do with these feelings that, you know, that were coming up, you know, going on multiple fatal accidents and seeing all these things.
It was, there was like never anything really taught about that. It was like the, you know, the little bit about what wellbeing in this big thick book, this little tiny chapter. Yeah. And I know it's getting better out there in the education part of actually printed material and stuff like that. And of course, you know, the amazing internet system has a lot of material out there.
Oh, yeah. As well. I think this is turning into a, a matter for departments of like, eh, we see a problem. Or, and we know we should do something, but the urgency to act is not, is not there. Right. Right. It's, it's one of those things, uh, I said this many a time, uh, when I was not so polite about the way back when I first got injured or first got shot.
I was not very polite about the way organizations handle this. And, and the bottom line is, is they know how to bury 'em because that is finite. If we lose somebody in the line of duty, uh, we give 'em full honors. We put the, uh, black masking tape or the, or the morning band around the badge. You wear it for a week.
Okay, we're done. Take it off. Everybody get back to work. Right. Right. This, now what you're talking about is you're talking about individuals that are, um, that are in the organization, that it's not finite. Mm-hmm. , it's, it is something that they have to continuously, uh, watch and deal with. They're not, um, you know, the, the, they're getting better about it, but they're just not equipped.
They just don't understand that you hit the tail on the head with the, uh, academy stuff. You know, here in Florida, we were looking at that couple years back, there was literally one page on Officer Wellness out of a thousand page, uh, book on how to be a cop. , Right? Like we could, you know, uh, if we had to deal with a suicidal subject with, uh, who, uh, was mentally challenged.
Well, the book provided you 20 pages on that. Yeah. But, but to help cops or help others in our profession, there was one page. So, you know, Has that grown from then? Absolutely. It has. And, um, it's, man, it's just gonna be such a, a hard push and until it starts hitting them in the pocketbook, I don't know that, uh, we're seeing that change.
It'll happen a lot quicker. . Yeah. If they have to start wind up, if it, if it starts winding up, costing them more money. Yeah. So then, then we'll see preventative measures, which. Is what we need. We need those preventative measures that saves organizations money in the long run, you know? So yeah. Lives and lives and money.
There you go. And that's, and, and the first responder world is, is struggling for people to join, join these careers. Um, yep. So yes, sir. Absolutely. You got, you have to, I mean, we invest so much in equipment and other types of training, but this is definitely an area that needs, needs training. And you're talking about, you know, like a line of duty.
Death is very like finite. There's like, most apartments have a policy, right? Written and that's just how it's gonna go down. But when I think it comes to mental health in a department or organization, um, even an outside the first responder to world, it's not a one, like a one page. Like this is how it's gonna go down.
I personally see it. It's, it's a toolbox. There has to be many different tools in this toolbox because everybody's life's different and they want to use different tools, you know, or may be more likely to use different tools if there's many of them to choose from. Absolutely. Can't put the, uh, you can't put a square peg in a round hole, right.
So, uh, there, there has to be. Um, and the last agency I work with over at Walton, they've got it. They're, they're getting it nailed down pretty good. Uh, they have, uh, they have a group of peer support individuals that, uh, the officers can choose who they want to. Uh, they have contracted with a counseling group that assigns numbers, not names.
So nobody knows names, nobody knows nothing. Uh, they have brought in, uh, I think they brought in some chaplains now. So, um, it's not a, just like you said, it's not a, a one size fits all. Some folks are gonna be more spiritual, some folks are gonna be more logical. Mm-hmm. , some folks are gonna be somewhere in the middle of that.
So you've got to be able to, um, you've gotta be able to understand and deal with those different aspects of how people want to move forward from stress to move out of that, out of that way. Some folks, it's going to be praying. I mean, that's just what they do. And, and that's awesome if that's for them.
Some folks it's going to. Fitness and eating right. Um, some folks it's going to be spending time, car to car with a peer support person or their, uh, or their, uh, you know, partner zone partner out there on the road. Um, sometimes it might just be sitting out back at the firehouse talking to, talking to your best friend.
So there's so many different ways that we can approach this, but the important thing is to have that available and to say, Hey, look, this is all at your disposal. Um, if you're, if you're having a little bit of a hard time, go talk to so and so and we'll get you squared away. And, and that's, that's the biggest piece.
You've got to be able to step forward, go. Man, I'm having a hard time. So having a hard time dealing with this. I think, uh, I think now, uh, the Walton Fire Rescue, those guys after a traumatic incident, so let's say they get in the middle of a car crash where there's fatalities mm-hmm. , they will go back together and debrief that after everything's squared away.
Yeah. And, and I think that's huge. Um, you know, we, if we could do that within 72 hours, uh, that helps, that it helps your mind process that traumatic incident. It helps it process it, move it along its way. Understand you're not alone in what you're feeling. Um, and, and provide some of that closure so that you don't hang on to that for the rest of your career.
You can move that one aside and let it go. So there's, like you said, you just gotta be able to, you gotta have those tools in the toolbox to give it to. Yeah. Yeah. And I think if you're a first responder or member, you know, or family is in this first responder world, you also have to remember that not, like you said, not one thing is going to fit you.
Yeah. So like, um, you know, I've tried different, uh, therapies and stuff like that, and some I don't enjoy and I, I won't do again. But there's some other ones I do enjoy and I'll do again. But you gotta remember just not just try one time, like. I went to, you know, whatever therapist, and I didn't like him. So I'm not ever going back.
Like you have to put in that effort to go, you know, a few times and try different modalities and different therapists. One it you find, the one you like, like it's like buying a new car, like you test drive lots of cars or used car or you know, you drive lots of 'em and then you're like, I really like this one because of.
And you have to, when it comes to your mental health, you have to find that exact same thing. Absolutely. You know, I tell everybody when we're talking, especially when it comes to counselors, they gotta fit like a glove, right? Mm-hmm. . And, and the biggest thing is, is you need to keep in mind because people will go to these, just like you said, they'll go one time, I don't like them.
Mm-hmm. , uh, so what does that do? That that sets them back even just a little bit. Yeah. Not, maybe not a lot, but now they're like, Oh, now I gotta go find another counselor. Yeah. This is, like I said in the beginning, this is not an easy road to, to travel. Right. Right. Sometimes it may take three or four counselors before you find the right one.
You may go do, uh, emdr and you may absolutely love it. Mm-hmm. , on the other hand, you may absolutely hate it and never go back. Yeah. So this is, this is one of those things that we can't, we can give you the, the pieces of the puzzle, but it's your puzzle. You, you've gotta put it together. I can't, I can't say what's good for Jerry.
Jerry can't say what's good for Steve. Yeah. So, uh, but you've gotta keep at it and you've gotta keep pushing forward. Right. So the li the light is at the end of the tunnel. You just gotta crawl your way out of the tunnel to get there. Sure, sure. Someone's, someone there is reaching their hand for you to, to help you.
But you have to, you have to also reach for it as well. Yeah. That's a fact. Yeah. Steve, how can people support first help? The, uh, the biggest thing that, um, that, that we're always asking for is, if you wanna get involved, make sure you hit us up on the website. Right. We've had a ton of people, uh, do walks.
And do fundraisers and do these different things for, for us, Uh, if you go to the contact page and say, Hey, I wanna get involved, man, fill it on out, I will be responding, because right now I'm in charge of volunteers and we've got a ton. So we've got a ton of volunteers. So, uh, we will try and get you in a spot where always looking good for good people to help us out with data analysis stuff.
We're looking for folks to help us out, especially if people want to do walks. We could give you templates to do, walks, all of those kinds of things. Um, the, the biggest way I, if, if I could think at a 30,000 foot level, the. Biggest way I could see to support first help is just support your first responders.
You see one, tell 'em, thank you. Yeah. There's enough, there's enough negativity, uh, all over the media, social media about, uh, firefighters and cops and, you know, um, that's, that's how it goes. And the big thing about that is just to just say thank you. Let them know that they're appreciated. Let them know that they're not forgotten and they're not being left, uh, to their own devices.
Yeah. So that would be the, you know, that would be by 30,000 foot level picture. Yeah. But, but um, yeah, it, we always, when we're doing our dinners, we're looking for volunteers and that kind of thing. And, uh, just share the. , get on social media, follow us on Instagram, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and, and spread the word about, Hey, look, you're not alone.
Everybody's struggling. Let us help you. Yeah. So, and I, I think that would be huge. Yeah. So I think there's also one other way that they could support you. Amazon Smile, is that right? ? Amazon Smile. Yes. At the bottom of every one of our email, Uh, signature. So I saw that. So, so we do have an Amazon SMILE account.
So if you shop a lot on Amazon like me, uh, if you'll, uh, put in first help and, um, and go to our SMILE account, uh, obviously some of those proceeds from that purchase will go straight to us. So that's a, that's an excellent way to, to help us out. While you're, while you're buying all that good stuff that as my wife tells me, I don't, I don't need, so.
Right, right. Well, Steve, thank you so much for being on. Um, it's been a pleasure to have you on and I love where first Help is headed. And please, audience, listeners, you know, reach out to First help for if you need help or just wanna support. I mean, that would be great ab Absolutely. Uh, thanks for having me and I appreciate it.
I look forward to checking out the podcast. Yeah, it'll be great. Thank you. Thank you for listening, and please remember to reach out to me if you're struggling with your mindset, your marriage, or any aspects of mental health. I'm here to help you. Thanks again for listening. Don't forget to rate and review the show wherever you access your podcast.
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