Across the country you’d be hard pressed to find a single first responder agency that isn’t talking about the mental health and well-being of its employees.
Police, fire and emergency service organizations are all looking for ways to make their first responders more resilient.
During the course of their careers, first responders will deal with some unimaginable calls, so being able to respond without having them negatively impact their personal and professional lives is a critical skill.
Imagine the toll on a first responder’s mental health when they break the news of a family member’s unexpected death, the stress of attending fatal motor vehicle collisions or the suicide of a person suffering from a mental health issue.
Sharing stories of some extremely tough situations is the impetus behind a new podcast, Bend Don’t Break, produced by the Delta Police Department.
In one-on-one interviews with Chief Neil Dubord, police officers and other first responders open up about their experiences on the job.
“These interviews are very honest, raw and at times hard to listen to,” said Dubord. “My role in interviewing these officers, and other first responders, is to hear their stories and encourage them to speak about what they may have learned or would do differently.
“I also think there’s another takeaway there – for leaders at all levels to be able to understand the perspective of someone going through a very tough situation.”
Dubord credits Const. Aaron Hill with proposing the podcast, and for his bravery in being upfront in regard to his own struggles.
Hill’s story is the topic of the first podcast that was released in November. It details how he was faced with a complaint alleging he’d used excessive force at the same time he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
“So now I’m in the middle of a complaint, not sure if I’m going to have a job, and I have an auto immune deficiency disease and I’ve just lost my career aspirations of being a SWAT operator and I’m going to be going back to the road,” Hill said.
Later he describes the moment he learned about the complaint.
“He told me, right there and then, with my two-year-old son, that I was being investigated for deceit… This cold feeling just came over my body… I know I felt like throwing up. I just remember standing there, looking at my kid, and the first thing that went through my mind is holy sh**, I’m not going to be a cop anymore,” he said.
In the second and third episodes, Const. Jordan MacWilliams, a Delta police officer from the Integrated Emergency Response Team, shares the story of a police shooting in 2012 outside a casino in New Westminster.
In the interview, MacWilliams recounts the events of that fateful day.
“He’s walking at us, holding the gun in the air and I remember, I’m staring at him through my sight, and I’m just watching him, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘OK Jordan, if he points the gun at us, you’re going to have to shoot him…’ He lowers the gun, and now he’s pointing the gun right at us.”
After describing what it was like to be in a situation he hoped he would never find himself in, MacWilliams shares the investigation that followed, and the devastating impact it had on his emotional well-being.
Bend Don’t Break podcasts are available on the Delta police website.