James Novello Shares the Top Online Resources for First Responders
First responders have some of the most difficult jobs in existence. They are often present during the worst moments of a person’s life and witness the horror that accompanies such moments. Stresses include traumatic exposures to death and dismemberment as well as being assaulted by patients, sometimes severely. These traumatic events will take will their toll on anyone, but some are more equipped to handle these events than others. Regardless of the person, the cumulative effects of these repeated exposures to stress and trauma increase the likelihood of a negative effect on career and life. The effects are physical as well, creating spikes of cortisol during stressful incidents which result in abnormally low cortisol levels resulting in low energy once off duty. Add all of this to chronic sleep deprivation and the effects can be considerable, yet the individual suffering may be unaware.
Fortunately, there are many online resources for first responders that can help them connect to the assistance they need in order to maintain peak performance and their ability to optimally serve. These resources can also help first responders achieve a longer career that is more enjoyable and sustainable.
James Novello, an SFFD paramedic from San Francisco, California, shares some of these important resources.
All Clear Foundation
The All Clear Foundation is focused on helping first responders with every aspect of their lives. The organization offers finances, retirement, grants, scholarships, education, leadership, professional development, and work-life balance. The site also includes a large physical and mental health section, including substance abuse, anger management, burnout, depression, stress, anxiety, and trauma.
Code Green Campaign
Code Green Campaign is dedicated to improving wellness among first responders and reducing the barriers that stand between first responders and mental health treatment. This organization provides an extensive list of resources for first responders, including crisis resources that can be called upon 24/7. The organization also maintains state-by-state listings of resources as well as resources for inpatient treatment centers. Online resources are listed, as are resources available in Canada and internationally.
Disaster Responder Assets Network
This organization provides in-person support in Northern California and provides online resources for all first responders. In-person services include psychological support, insurance claim assistance, housing assistance, and a resource to get therapy dogs.
First Responder Support Network (FRSN)
This organization provides outreach to families and first responders, including in-person training, videos, audio, and directories of clinicians experienced in working with first responders. FRSN provides a great deal of family support, recognizing that families also experience stress and upheaval when a first responder in their household is suffering from the effects of the job.
National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)
The active mental health support organization has a section on its website that focuses on firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and other public safety officers. The site contains information on when professionals should reach out for help and direct them to vital resources. There are also listings for support for loved ones.
ResponderStrong is a section of the All Clear Foundation’s website that focuses on providing online training to first responders for them to properly handle the stresses of the job. The site includes videos, podcasts, tip sheets, and tool kits that can be used. The site also includes many excellent book recommendations for first responders who are encountering various problems, including emotional issues, marriage problems, and burnout.
SAMHSA First Responders and Disaster Responders Resource Portal
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration presents many resources for first responders on its website. The site describes the signs of physical and mental stress for first responders and those responding to disasters. It also provides stress management tips for those who have participated in first responder activities during their jobs or volunteer.
The site also has many fact sheets and videos for training. The fact sheets cover topics like managing grief, managing stress, dealing with compassion fatigue, and tips for families welcoming their disaster responders home.
Tug McGraw Foundation
The Tug McGraw Foundation is dedicated to helping people with neurological disorders, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress. Their website includes help and information for first responders and their families. This is a natural fit since many veteran first responders have post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from what they experience on duty.
The website provides crisis hotlines and connects first responders and their families with key resources that can help them resume happy and productive lives such as diet, exercise, community, and spirituality.
Exercise and Diet Resources
In order to combat the effects of repeated traumatic events, paramedics and first responders must pay attention to their physical health as well: exercise and diet are key aspects which most people are unaware of (or think don’t apply to them). Keeping the body in the best shape it can be in not only makes first responders more resilient to the negative effects of the job, but it leads to an increase of happiness and mental clarity.
The Mayo Clinic explains the importance of strength training as well as cardiovascular conditioning. Something as simple as 15 minutes of TRX or Cross Fit every other day combined with four 45 minute running or biking sessions per week will have a measurable effect on longevity, as discussed by Dr Peter Attia, as well as the ability to feel better each day. Often first responders are worried about their ability to maintain a 30+ year career, so let the promise of a long career be a motivator if nothing else.
Certain diets also affect mental clarity and a person’s ability to maintain an active life in emergency professions. While no diet is right for all, some diets, including ketogenic and intermittent fasting, have scientific evidence to back up their positive effects (and if you’re working as a first responder, we all know it’s not a rare occasion to go 12 hours without food sometimes). This article offers suggestions for fitting in diet and exercise for longevity into a busy schedule.
Helping First Responders Live Heathy & Happy Lives
James Novello suggests these online resources as a starting place for first responders and their families to help mitigate the negative effects caused by serving as a first responder. To assure health, happiness, and a long career education must come first in order to understand the what, how, and why behind maintaining health in what can sometimes be an unhealthy career. In addition to these resources once a problem is identified, paramedics and first responders should be proactive and begin helping themselves or their family member today (not tomorrow). They should engage in regular exercise and strength training, and maintain a scienced back diet that promotes overall well-being while engaging in activities to support emotional well-being such as community and family events or hobbies.
James Novello recognizes the importance of these resources once they are needed and hopes to improve the lives of his fellow first responders, many of which are silently suffering or unaware of how much better their lives can be simply by making a few life changes. While such changes may seem daunting at first, once one week passes, and then a month passes, then eventually new habits begin to form. By using these resources, and with enough strength and discipline, these life changes lead to feeling and performing better than most can ever imagine. The goal is to avoid the need for many of the emergency resources listed in this article through education, prevention, and early intervention. Tens of thousands of first responders have improved their health, happiness, and career longevity by following the advice from these sites — change your path today!
About James Novello
James Novello was a firefighter paramedic in San Francisco for over a decade, responding to over 25,000 incidents. He has experience with overcoming trauma, stress, alcohol and addiction, which has led him to offer peer support and life coaching to those undergoing similar situations.