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Dear Mental Health Community

We both agree that there is a problem with a lot of our first responders. With such high levels of suicide, divorce, drug abuse, and PTSD among our fire and police folks, we know something needs to be done. It breaks our heart to see lives and families destroyed in the people we care for so much.

You want access? As chaplains we have access. Studies show that first responders are more willing to see us than they are willing to see you. As Kenneth Pargament says in his book in his foundational work The Psychology of Religion and Coping "It may come as a surprise to mental health professionals, but the average citizen is more likely to seek out the clergy for help than any other professional." (pg 210)

We, as chaplains, are a gateway for first responders getting proper treatment. For a lot of first responders there still is a stigma of seeing a psychologist or counselor. It also means that they have to go where you work instead of you engaging them where they live and work. And from a chaplain’s perspective, by-and-large you as a profession don't usually take into account their faith as it relates to their mental health. A lot of our folks have a very strong faith that needs to be respected. Their spirituality is a pathway to healing.

We as chaplains know that we have a lot to learn from you. Your knowledge of mental health issues and treatments far eclipses what we know. We want to know what to look for in our first responders as well as know when to escalate someone’s treatment of care. We also want to know your capabilities and what you are comfortable in dealing with. Not all of you can, or should, handle the horrific things that first responders deal with.

We want to work with you. We as chaplains want to learn from you and we want to be able to refer first responders to you. But that means we want to be able to trust them to you. These folks mean a lot to us. We understand that many of you may not have quite the spiritual worldview or training that we as chaplains do. That means we expect you to refer back to us those who are in spiritual crisis that you cannot help. We need to work together to take care of the whole first responder, not just part.

Chaplain Chris Wade

Vice President

South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association

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