Being a first responder is a difficult job, but few people think about the mental stress that goes along with the job. “You need that fight or flight response for the job, it’s not a normal thing to run into a burning building or cut people out of a crashed car,” said Lt. Jamie Hudson, a member of the Moline Fire Department. The rush of adrenaline and other brain chemicals that are vital on the job can lead to hypervigilance, anxiety and anger issues off the job. “We experience things that 99% of people never do and we do it every day.”

That’s why Hudson and several other Moline firefighters created the MABAS 43 Peer Support Team in 2019. MABAS is an acronym for Mutual Aid Box Alarm System and is a statewide mutual aid program in Illinois for fire, EMS and specialized incident operational teams. MABAS 43 covers much of the Quad City area. The Peer Support Team offers colleague to colleague support and members are trained to recognize when someone needs extra help. If checking in on teammates and encouraging them isn’t enough, the team works with Dr. Carl Vincent at South Park Psychology and their network of therapists.

(mabas43peersupport.org)

The group is hosting a three day event called “Post Traumatic Purpose” at the Vibrant Arena in Moline November 15-17 led by Travis Howze, a national expert on trauma and PTSD among first responders. Howze is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who worked as a police officer and firefighter. He was one of the firefighters who had to help collect the bodies of the “Charleston Nine,” nine firefighters who died fighting a blaze in a massive furniture super store in Charleston, S.C. in 2007.

The courses are free to any police, fire, EMS and dispatchers, as well as their family members. There will be two three-hour session each day at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Attendees only need to attend one course. Course objectives include recognizing signs and symptoms of mental health challenges, managing burnout, communicating through trauma and planning for the mental future after retirement.

For more information or to register, click here.