America… We Are Failing Our First Responders & Their Families

By Vanessa Stapleton – President Armor Up West Virginia

Now, more than ever, as I watch the news or scroll through social media, I see story after story of chaos and violence. In the midst of all the chaos are the brave heroes sworn to protect and serve. This year has brought a wave of new and unprecedented circumstances like we have never seen in our generation.

The pandemic has brought a whole new level of panic and stress in the general population fueled by the media. Riots have brought a new level of danger to those who serve in these communities. Officers in Democratic led cities are being attacked with everything from feces filled balloons to lasers causing officers to go permanently blind. Even in the midst of all of this, these brave men and women suit up and show up to answer the calls of those who need them. Why? Because they signed up to help those in need. Behind the COVID, behind the riots, behind the violence, are those of us citizens who still need their protection and services. To our first responders who still suit up and show up, THANK YOU. The silent majority is grateful you are still dedicated to those of us who depend on you.

As things continue to unravel, we must ask ourselves, who is there for these brave men and women as they continue to protect and serve in the midst of all of this uncertainty and absolute chaos? Who is helping the very people who are putting their lives on the line in this pandemonium? After months of COVID and rioting, there is still no end in sight for either. So how are these first responders coping with living in a state of survival for months on end? Who is offering a helping hand to these brave men and women? Is ANYONE stopping to ask the obvious question…? Will our first responders and their families ever recover from the mental anguish of this all?

I run a first responder organization called Armor Up WV. We have the honor and privilege of working with Safe Call Now. Safe Call Now is the National Crisis Hotline for first responders. Safe Call Now is a reputable organization with over eleven years of experience answering crisis calls in the US. Since March of this year, Safe Call Now has seen over a 200% increase in the number of calls coming in to the hotline. There is no doubt that 2020 has had a monumental effect on the mental health of our first responders. The calls are coming from a lot of the cities we see on the news; Seattle, New York, Minneapolis, and Chicago to name a few. The lack of leadership there is causing a lot of stress within departments and for our first responders who are struggling to find a reason to go to work every day.

Who else is calling the hotline? My role in Armor Up WV and with Safe Call Now is working with the families. The Safe Call Now hotline is not only for first responders, but families can call as well. Typically, I will work with the spouses who call the hotline. This year, I find myself talking to more spouses than ever. Also, children of first responders have been reaching out to the hotline looking for resources as they are struggling mentally knowing their parent is going into cities where leadership does not have their parents back. Children are also worried about their parents being exposed to COVID in the COVID high areas. Last month alone was probably the busiest month yet as far as talking to family members who are struggling emotionally.

America, we are failing our first responders and their families. These first responders and their families are suffering greatly. We must do better at helping. We must be bold enough to have these conversations. We must ask the questions that no one wants to hear. Who is helping these first responders to cope with this? Who is helping their families to cope with this? Where can they find the resources to get them through this?

Every first responder family needs to know the Safe Call Now crisis hotline phone number. The hotline number is 206-459-3020. It is completely confidential. We have seen a lot of new hotline numbers popping up stating they are confidential. Safe Call Now is and has been the only hotline protected by law ensuring confidentiality. The founder and president of Safe Call Now ensured they legislated Safe Call Now’s hotline as confidential. Former Washington State Governor, Christine Gregoire, signed the legislation enacting and guaranteeing confidentiality for all first responders seeking help for personal & professional matters. Safe Call Now is the only first responder hotline protected by law. They help with everything from alcoholism and addiction to PTSD and everything in between. Safe Call Now doesn’t work alone either.

Both Armor Up WV and Safe Call Now work with many other organizations to help first responders. Serve and Protect is another fantastic organization helping first responders. Serve and Protect takes referrals from Safe Call Now and Armor Up WV for first responders in need of counseling services. Armor Up WV has sent numerous referrals to Serve and Protect for first responder spouses in the recent months. We choose Serve and Protect because of their history as a reputable organization and the results they give us. Serve and Protect hand picks the most qualified counselors for our first responders and their family members.

Armor Up WV also works with Code 9 Heroes and Families in helping families of first responders. This month, Armor Up WV and Code 9 Heroes and Families is launching their new pilot program for first responder spouses and partners. On September 3 at 2pm Pacific Time (5pm Eastern Time), will be the first Spouse and Partner Zoom meeting. The zoom is open to spouses and partners of first responders looking for support. The information to join the Zoom can be found on the Safe Call Now, Armor Up WV, and Code 9 Heroes and Families social media pages. The therapist from Quest 2 Recovery, Amber Carra, who works directly with first responders and their families will be leading the Zoom session offering support and coping strategies to the spouses.

There are organizations and resources out there helping our first responders and their families. If you are looking for a way to help, many of these organizations are donation based. You can follow their social media pages for ways to help. Safe Call Now, Serve and Protect, Armor Up WV, Armor Up New Mexico, Code 9 Heroes and Families, 1 is Too Many, Badge of Life, Responder Health, and Hometown Heroes Alliance are all reputable organizations working together to help our first responders and their families as we navigate these unprecedented events as they unfold. Working together is the only way we can help our nation’s heroes to navigate these chaotic and stressful times. We are honored to have such amazing organizations working behind the scenes for our heroes.

If you are a first responder or family member in crisis or in need of resources, make the call to Safe Call Now at 206-459-3020. Or reach out to one of the many resources listed above. You do not have to suffer in silence.