SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – While the job of a first responder can be physically taxing, it also can take a mental toll, and some organizations, like AMR are looking at strategies to support first responders.

Paramedics, firefighters, and police have to see people on their worst days, and be the first to help, and that can lead to challenges like burnout.

Freddie, a three-and-a-half-year-old golden doodle is a certified therapy dog and Administrative Operations Supervisor Melissa Piscitelli is Freddie’s handler. “I felt incredibly helpless when it came to the mental health of our staff, and I felt like being able to help with Freddie and being his handler could really help the field staff,” says Piscitelli.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service administration, roughly a third of first responders deal with depression or PTSD, compared to only 20 percent the general population. Paramedic AJ Lamay said when the job can be intense, it can sometimes be hard to leave the emotions of work, behind.

Lamay tells 22News, “You might not know your patients or your patients families but they’re still human beings, so you still have that aspect of I care about this person even though I don’t know them.” That’s why AJ is joining the Western Mass Critical Incident Stress Management team,
taking in part in training that will allow him to offer support to his peers, when they’ve had a tough day.

Lamay added, “If you don’t get the help you need, you won’t be able to help anyone else. So I think that here at AMR Springfield we’re trying to do the best that we can to support all of our workers.”

If you or a loved one are struggling with your mental health, call or text the Mass. Behavioral Health Helpline at (833) 773-2445, or you can chat them here.