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How traumatic events impact the mental health of first responders

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Posted at 11:30 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 11:50:30-05

TULSA, Okla.  — Incidents like the homicides in Muskogee and murder-suicide in Sand Springs can leave their mark with first responders.

RELATED STORY: Five children, one man killed in Muskogee; suspect in custody

First responders are no strangers to heartbreaking scenes, but that doesn't make them immune to them.

“For a lot of these cops, this is going to be the worst thing they see in their entire career," Tulsa Police Lt. Sean Larkin said.

A day at the office can mean a lot of trauma for first responders, never knowing what they’ll see. Scenes like the ones in Muskogee and Sand Springs have an impact.

RELATED STORY: Sand Springs police say father killed his two daughters and their mother before taking his own life

“Those of us that are police officers, or the firemen, or the paramedics that are having to go out to these calls, we’re parents as well," Larkin said.

When they show up to a scene, they know they have a job to do.

“I think sometimes, I know the problem for me, is you’re working so hard, you’re kind of on autopilot," said Jim Warring, law enforcement director at Grand Lake Mental Health. "You’re not really stopping processing, you know, what you’re seeing.”

Warring is a retired police sergeant who now works with police departments, bringing mental health resources to police officers. He said it’s important first responders have a chance to talk to someone after a critical incident.

“The quicker that they at least, you know, unpack or process, the more likely they are to stay on duty, productive," Warring said.

Larkin said along with counseling, finding hobbies outside of work is important for the mental health of police officers.

“I know something our department encourages is for people to have outlets outside of this work," Larkin said. "You know, I love being a cop, it’s been an excellent career for me personally, but it’s not my identity.”

Both Warring and Larkin said, at the end of the days like Tuesday, many first responders will go home and hug their families.


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