IN FOCUS: Weight of the Call

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – First responders are seeing an increase need to speak about mental health issues. With the recent passing of firefighter Doug Robison, many are turning to peer support programs. 

ABC4 News on the CW30 found the impacts of the Weight of the Call during an IN FOCUS discussion .

“We found that 74 percent of our brothers and sisters working in Fire and EMS deal with stress and anxiety on a daily basis,” says Jeff Dill with Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.”We have validated 1,584 tragic events (nationally) where they’ve taken their lives and about 94 percent of those cases happened after the year 2000.”

Murray Fire Battalion Chief Jordon Petersen says, “Peer support programs have been an incredible program to help us deal with what we deal with in the regular calls of duty.” 

“A lot of what we do now is we teach firefighters and first responders that this is normal. What you’re experiencing is normal,” he says. 

The Battalion Chief says his peers are more apt to reach out to one another rather than a therapist or specialist outside of a first responder organization. 

He says, “We found that when you train individuals in not full mental health response, but when you actually go out and kind of teach them how to respond to individuals who come forward, you create avenues of care and they are more likely to reach out to individuals they know.” 

Allowing peer support specialist to get the help a first responder truly needs. 

But who checks on our first responders’ peer support specialists?

Matthew McFarland with Unified Fire Authority tells us, “There is a kind of a checks and balance where [peer support specialist] internally check in on one another. They watch each others case loads so to speak, and they make sure they are talking among themselves and taking their own medicine.” 

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

If you or someone you know is contemplating immediate suicide, please call 9-1-1.


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