Heads of State Call for PTSD Resources for Surfside

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Florida – As crews from central Florida continue to assist with search and rescue in Surfside, the work takes a heavy toll.

What would you like to know

  • Seminole firefighters traveled to Surfside to help search for collapsed condo
  • Lt. Tripp Hansen said the job was physically and mentally difficult
  • Heads of State Asked President Biden for Mental Health Resources for First Responders
  • People working at the site should keep mental health issues in mind, experts say

For a week now, Lt. Tripp Hansen and the Seminole County Fire Department have been assisting in the search for survivors in Surfside.

“It’s a lot of hard, back-breaking work, long hours,” Hansen said. “We work in shifts of 12 hours, from 12 noon to 12 noon”

But he said the mental demands are just as grueling as the physical demands.

“It takes a mental toll, you know, when you first got here you see something that we obviously haven’t seen of this magnitude in just one area,” he said.

That’s why the state’s chief financial officer and state fire marshal Jimmy Patronis made the request of President Joe Biden during his site visit.

“The need for mental health resources for our first responders here on site… we need to ensure their well-being,” Patronis said.

He specifically requested resources from the President to help address the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder among these first responders.

“One of the things that is sorely lacking in our funding is funding for mental health,” said Michael Saxe, peer support specialist and police and firefighter chaplain.

He has provided peer and religious support to first responders for over 20 years.

After also suffering from PTSD in his own career in law enforcement, he was involved in a serious car accident and responded to the September 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in New York City.

The men and women helping the search and rescue efforts at Surfside need to know how they are doing on their return, he said.

“They need to be aware of… ‘Am I sleeping properly? Am I eating properly? Am I working? Am I starting to wander away from social situations?… Am I awake at night? Do I have nightmares? “says Saxony.

Hansen said they know the importance of mental health in this job and while they are focused on their mission he said they encourage everyone to take care of them too.

“Mental health is a real part of the job, and realizing that it’s okay to not be well, to talk about it and ask for help,” Hansen said.

The Seminole County Fire Department has already contacted them and discussed debriefing and verification with everyone upon their return, he added.

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