GARLAND, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Three Texas firefighters, two of which are from Garland, were back at work Tuesday after spending last week helping teams in Surfside, Florida. But they weren’t part of the recovery effort for the condo collapse.
Instead, they helped offer peer mental health support.
Their names are Capt. JD Schulgen and Lt. Matt Brawner. They are just two of 14 members of Garland Fire Department’s peer support program.
“When you’re able to go help other firefighters in their time of need, it just doesn’t get better than that,” said Capt. JD Schulgen.
They traveled to Surfside on July 5 and stayed for five days, returning this past weekend.
As peer counselors, they visited local fire stations to have one-on-one talks with hundreds of first responders, helping them heal from what they’ve seen.
“We would talk about the responses that people have had to significant traumatic events. Surfside obviously is one of those,” Schulgen said.
“Some people, it’s hard for them to talk about the actual event, so you end up talking about baseball or Texas. And then next thing you know, what they really want to talk about comes out,” Brawner said.
Studies have shown more firefighters die by suicide than in the line of duty.
They say many just need someone to talk to.
“The stress is ongoing. It’s a cumulative effect. So you’ve got this one big traumatic event… and that’s a stressor but then the ongoing stress of the day to day work that we do too,” Schulgen said.
The Garland Fire Department’s peer support team has also responded to the El Paso Walmart shooting, and the Midland-Odessa mass shooting.
They say each time is an honor.
“It’s a high calling and it’s something that we’re trying to do and something I am grateful to do,” Schulgen said.