As 2019 begins, the campaign to address the growing number of mental health challenges in the First Responder community is in full swing. With that in mind, on January 26th Aurora Behavioral Health System and the Chandler Regional Medical Center (CRMC) ED Wellness Committee hosted a first of its kind event called Everyday Heroes. It was an event to honor, provide education and resources to all the brave men and women who respond to crisis situations/events in our community. The day was momentous in occasion and spirit as over 60 first responders came to participate, which included Fire Fighters, Police, Doctors, Nurses, Flight Paramedics, EMT’s, Crisis Teams and Social Workers.
The occasion not only marked a gathering of amazing heroes, but also a huge outpouring from the community. Over 25 businesses contributed in various ways to show their unwavering support for those that sacrifice so much. One such business was Jesterz Improv. Understanding that laughter has the propensity to heal so much, Jesterz and their amazing staff performed during the lunch break and brought joy to a subject that can be so difficult to discuss. That in combination with the amazing food prepared by the dietary team at Aurora led to full stomachs and happy hearts.
Aurora and the CRMC Wellness Committee were proud to bring together an amazing group of speakers and participants as well. The opening ceremony was conducted by Boy Scout Troop 955 bringing in the Colors and an absolutely stunning Rosevelt Rawls (12 years old) singing the national anthem. Aurora’s own Angela Schmitt, equine-assisted therapist and owner of Animals With Heart shared her 24 years of experience with an equine-assisted therapeutic experience for attendees. Whether Angela was speaking with her amazing horse Pepe (who was in no short supply of character) or getting the group involved in interacting with these amazing creatures, she opened the minds and hearts of all in attendance. She was followed by Jeff Dill, founder of the Fire Fighter Behavioral Health Alliance and a retired Fire Captain who has been involved in the field for decades. Jeff’s discussion brought valuable insight into the growing need for awareness and support for those that give all they have to help and save others. His message was reinforced by his clear passion to address the increased suicide rates in the first responder community.
The final team of presenters were Dr. Sandy Indermuhle, Medical Director of the CRMC Emergency Room and Nurse Jessica Rosenberg, founder of the CRMC Wellness Committee. They brought to light the struggles that are faced daily in emergency rooms across America. In this resilient message, they demonstrated that despite carrying the weight of grief and trauma, a strong team of united and passionate professionals working together will overcome challenges and fatigue through peer support and wellness advocacy. This message was only reinforced by the inspiring and loving words of Kelly Irion-Smith. She bravely shared her family’s story of her mother’s fight for life, finding hope, and how her gratitude for all the first responders and healthcare professionals who made her recovery possible has no bounds.
Vicki Hixson, a 20 year veteran in the police community and owner of Critical Incident Consulting, closed the event by providing all those in attendance with valuable community resources and the message of accountability not only of those who are first responders, but to all members of the community being involved in the fight to end the stigma around mental health and addiction in this heroic community.