South Florida Hospital News
Sunday April 21, 2019
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March 2019 - Volume 15 - Issue 9

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Not All Wounds Are Visible

Lt. Maureen (Moe) Themis-Fernandez remembers that day clearly. She stopped by the home of a Korean War Veteran and retired officer unannounced. After knocking repeatedly, he answered the door with an anguished look on his face and then collapsed sobbing into her arms. He told her that after years of suffering with PTSD and its related anxiety and depression, he simply couldn’t take it anymore and was about to commit suicide when he was interrupted by her knock on his door. That man was her father.

PTSD is a common cause of suicide among First Responders and in 2017, 243 of them did commit suicide. That’s more than the number of those who died in the Line of Duty. Many First Responders hesitate to seek help due to the stigma that has traditionally been associated with mental health related issues but this mindset is beginning to change. This is due to increasing awareness raising and education efforts taking place within the various First Responder communities.
 
Lt. Moe, a 23 year veteran of the Davie Police Department is committed to fighting for her “brothers and sisters” in blue and red. During the past few years, she has initiated a number of Mental Health Programs at her Department. These include:
• A Chaplaincy Program oriented towards providing personal support for officers and non-sworn employees alike on both an individual and a collective basis. The latter includes chaplain led debriefings following critical incidents.
• A Peer Support Program in which both sworn and non-sworn personnel receive advanced training in Mental Health issues. These individuals then become “buddies” to officers in crisis to provide support while helping them navigate available resources.
• An initiative to educate retirees about mental health issues and resources held during their annual firearms requalification process.
• An annual Family/Partner Support Night in which loved ones are educated about PTSD, suicide signs and symptoms and provided with corresponding available resources.
• Training for first line supervisors and command staff on mental health issues, available resources, and problem-solving techniques.
• A copy of Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement: A Guide for Officers and Their Families by Kevin M. Gilmartin, Ph.D., is provided to all sworn employees.
• Welcoming fire department personnel to all trainings and debriefings.
 
It’s important for our first responders to establish a strong and open relationship with their primary care physicians so that the “non- visible wounds” can be picked up and treated early. There’s no question that early detection is the key to prevention and with these patients it resonates more than ever. Not all wounds are visible for First Responders but at the Davie Police Department, efforts to save these precious lives are!

Lt. Moe can be reached at Maureen_themis-fdez@davie-fl.gov.

Rona Levitt can be reached at levirona@aol.com.
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