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Panhandle organization helps firefighters find mental health resources

Posted at 6:56 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 18:56:27-04

They’re the first to respond to emergencies — keeping you and Tallahassee safe. But under the protective gear, there’s a heavy burden firefighters carry with them at all times.

Lance Butler is an engineer with the Tallahassee Fire Department. He's one of almost 300 members who keep us out of harm's way. And while he's trained to battle house fires — he's fighting something personal.

"After a call in 2018, I was diagnosed with PTSD," said Butler.

He sought help — only to find a lack of resources.

"After that, I was starting to try to seek help after finding myself in a pretty dark place," said Butler. "Realized there wasn't a lot of resources.

It's what brought Kellie O'Dare with Florida A&M University to the Tallahassee Fire Department. She's a director of the 2nd Alarm Project — an organization providing resources to first responders. She's also here with 40 clinicians learning what firefighters go through.

"We do a lot of mental health awareness training within our first responder organizations," said O'Dare.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, firefighters face erratic schedules and painful experiences — leading to depression and post-traumatic stress disorders. Firefighters also face barriers seeking help including transportation and costs. She wants to help improve on this and keep firefighters safe.

"The better job we can do making sure there are resources available for them, it just increases their quality of life."