First responders talk mental health at annual Garrett Loomis training seminar

Published: Apr. 8, 2023 at 5:43 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) -Saturday morning, more than 100 firefighters and other first responders gathered at Jefferson Community College.

Bringing them together, the 10th annual Garrett Loomis training seminar.

The yearly event honors Garrett Loomis, a Sackets Harbor Assistant Fire Chief who lost his life in the line of duty in 2010.

The Garrett Loomis Foundation was created in his name with the mission of improving fire safety.

“Garrett was a loving 26-year-old kid. Vibrant. Always wanted to help kids, help his family, work for the community. That’s why he went into firefighting,” said T.G. Kolb, Member of the Garrett W. Loomis Education Committee.

Over the years, the seminar has covered topics ranging from active shooter training to combating fire on the farm.

This year, the emphasis was on psychological struggles.

“People in the emergency services, they see the most dangerous things. They see the things that a lot of the public never sees and never hears,” said Kolb.

Leading the seminar, Dr. David Griffin, Assistant Chief of the Charleston, South Carolina Fire Department.

He emphasized the importance of mental health through team building exercises, video examples, and open discussion.

“We focus a lot of our time on educating our firefighters on structure fires, auto-extrication and hazmat. We often forget about the main piece which is mental health, and we’re starting to see that with suicide rates increasing and a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder issues,” said Griffin.

Battalion Chief Ronald Wareham with the City of Watertown Fire Department tells us, he hopes this seminar gives those struggling with mental health the courage to speak up.

“Hopefully it wakes them up to go talk to someone and share their feelings without the stigma that it’s wrong to share,” said Wareham.