A new program in Brevard County is helping firefighters deal with the day-to-day stresses of the job.
- New Brevard program helping firefighters cope w/ daily stress
- Counselors try to understand what firefighters go through
- Counselors wear gear, battle fires in training facility
The program is connecting the mental health field to the men and women who see incredibly difficult situations on the job.
It's a real life simulation at Titusville Fire's training facility — two firefighters pulling a hose into a burning building with the goal of putting it out.
But under one of the heavy, protective suits isn't a real firefighter.
"Firefighting is a real high stress occupation," said mental health counselor Christina Principe.
Principe runs a counseling service in Suntree under all that gear. She and more than a dozen other fellow clinicians are seeing firsthand what men and women in the fire service deal with.
“I had no idea before this training the continuous stresses they encounter," she said.
It's part of a statewide program through the Florida Health and Safety Collaborative, which is first for Brevard County.
Here at the Titusville Fire Department training facility, the counselors are donning turnout gear and heading in to battle fires, while learning from agencies across the Space Coast.
This training opens the door for clinicians to understand what firefighters go through every day.
"It's a window into our world," said Lt. Jacob Lee of the Rockledge Fire Department, who is leading the program. "From how we run calls, our families, our home life."
Plus they are getting insight to the trauma firefighters’ experience — from what they see on tragic scenes, to just driving by an intersection where they once worked a deadly crash.
"The normal person deals with trauma maybe four to five times in their life," Lee said. "We can do that in a week."
Bottom line: It's about gaining empathy, creating a bond and finding common ground.
So when a firefighter comes to talk about issues, the counselor can go back to what they learned in the training to try and 'get it.'
"We need to prioritize the care we give our first responders," Principe said.
Firefighters said the program is growing, and they hope to bring in another round of clinicians for training next year.