Northland firefighters receive emotional resiliency training

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 8:46 PM CDT
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SUPERIOR, WI. (Northern News Now) -- Firefighters in the Northland are receiving special emotional resiliency training due to a growing concern across the nation.

Firefighters, in any neighborhood, are one of the community’s first lines of defense, meaning they’re regularly exposed to dangerous and upsetting situations.

“For a firefighter, our typical day is the worst day in someone else’s life,” said Superior Fire Chief Camron Vollbrecht.

“The PTSD rates and suicide rates in the fire service are higher than they are in the general public,” said Chief Vollbrecht. “They are very similar to what we see in active-duty military because we are exposed to the same things.”

According to a study from the Ruderman Family Foundation, first responders are more likely to die of suicide than in the line of duty.

Now, the Superior Fire Department is doing what they can to support their team through their darkest moments, by holding an emotional resiliency training.

“What this training does for us, is help gives us the tools to recognize when we are having problems early. And it gives us some tools to help ourselves and do some self-help,” said Chief Vollbrecht.

The training was taught by the International Association of Firefighting. They gave 55 firefighters tips on how to take care of themselves, even with their busy schedule.

“That could be proper nutrition and diet, meditation, yoga, changing their mindset from thinking about negative ways of thinking about things to putting a more positive spin on the topic,” said Chip Tidball, an emotional resiliency trainer.

Tips like finding ways to eat healthier, when one minute a firefighter could be eating dinner, and the next they are called out to an emergency.

“How to eat smaller portions, maybe how to eat in a healthier fashion, when they eat, how they eat, what they eat,” said Justin Price, and emotional resiliency trainer.

But the training went beyond basic everyday tricks. The firefighters that participated also were given space to talk about their traumatic experiences.

Together, lifting each other up so that when they are called to an emergency, they can be in the right headspace.

“It’s okay to not be okay,” said Chief Vollbrecht. “It’s okay to talk about things that we are exposed to. It’s okay to have emotions when it comes to this. And this resiliency training helps us take that next step, in that it’s okay to move forward.”

The resiliency training included firefighters from Superior, Duluth, Hibbing, and Ashland.

The training is free thanks to a grant from Essentia.

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