Supporting first responders’ mental health

First responders
First responders(WWNY)
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 2:38 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Emergency responders - whether they’re police, firefighters, or paramedics - are exposed to potentially traumatic situations. That’s why a new north country non-profit is offering first responders mental health resources and educational services.

It’s called Priority Wellness Campaign.

Throughout his years of working as a paramedic and emergency medical technician, Michael Briggs became increasingly aware of a problem plaguing people in his field.

“Our population is slowly dwindling and it’s because of mental health. They do other things that may not keep them in the profession,” he said.

In response, Briggs and a number of emergency workers throughout the north country started Priority Wellness Campaign. The organization is dedicated to giving first responders much-needed emotional support and eliminating the stigma regarding mental health struggles.

“They’re the helpers so they don’t feel like they should be the ones getting help. They bury it down and over time these symptoms start to manifest whether it’s anxiety, stress, or PTSD,” said Patrick O’Connell, Priority Wellness Campaign.

Priority Wellness got its start just under two months ago.

First on the organization’s agenda is the establishment of a peer support program. In it, participants will be paired up with fellow emergency workers to mutually work through trauma resulting from their jobs.

“Sometimes you just need that little bit of an outlet to talk about it. You don’t need to see a professional all of the time, call a support line. You just may need to talk to somebody that’s been there done that,” said Briggs.

The organization aims to expand its fundraising efforts and host classes centered around dealing with emotions. By the end of 2023, O’Connell says he’d like to see the outreach expand beyond the north country

“Maybe Oswego, maybe Onondaga, maybe Oneida, maybe Herkimer. Getting boots on the ground in those counties as well,” he said.

Officials stress that the organization isn’t just for ambulance crews. It’s for everyone. Firefighters, law enforcement and just plain old citizens are more than welcome to get involved.

Learn more about Priority Wellness Campaign here.