Organization teaches peer support for first responders

By  | 

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — First responders from across the valley learned on Saturday how to better identify the signs of mental health issues and to support crew members — on and off duty.

Two classes were offered by Virginia First Responder Support Services, an organization that educates police, firefighters, rescue operators and dispatchers about mental health.

They were free and funded through a grant from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health.

Gene Thompson, with VFRSS, said teaching each department about the signs and effects of PTSD and depression is important as suicides continue to rise with firefighters across the United States.

"Peer support is one of the best things that you can offer a first responder to get them mental health help," Thompson said. "A lot of times, they don't want to go to a counselor they want to go to somebody that is a firefighter and relates to them."

Thompson said the organization will be teaching classes across the commonwealth. The next class will be held in Rockbridge County at the start of August.