JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the search for survivors in the Surfside condo collapse continues, the state is sending mental wellness peer teams to provide support to Urban Search and Rescue members.
State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said two peer team members will be assigned to each unit.
“The members of Florida’s US&R teams are giving everything they have to save lives and support the rescue mission at Surfside. Our first responders willingly go into traumatic situations and see things that cannot be unseen,” said Patronis in a statement. “Exposure to these events can cause a tremendous impact on these heroes for years to come, and the peer teams will provide invaluable support to these brave men and women.”
Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO of LSF Health Systems, has been deployed to help first responders during several traumatic events, including 9/11 and the crash of Flight 587 in 2001.
“We must be very mindful that our first responders, yes they are trained, they are focused, they do a marvelous job but they are also human,” explained Dr. Cauffield.
Dr. Cauffield said traumatic events, like the condo collapse, can have physical and mental effects on first responders.
“A staggering statistic is that our first responders are at most risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidality or depression, and other mental health concerns,” explained Dr. Cauffield. “Normally after a traumatic event, about 20% of the lay public that witnesses or experienced it will experience PTSD whereas for our first responders that statistic is 30%.”
To support frontline heroes, Dr. Cauffield said teams are often deployed to the scene to speak with those impacted.
“Oftentimes though, initially, people are in shock and it’s hard for them to even verbalize what they’re feeling and assimilate what they’ve just been through,” said Dr. Cauffield. “So acknowledging that, normalizing that this is part of the process, giving support, letting people know you are there whenever they are ready to talk, whatever support they might need. It’s very helpful to know that these individuals have support and help as they’re moving through this traumatic process.”
For more information about resources available, visit LSF Health Systems.