ADRIAN — First responders take certain risks every day. It's part of the job. As is stress. Even so, the coronavirus pandemic is a uniquely challenging experience for those on the front lines.
First responders come into contact with those with COVID-19. At the end of the day many have to weigh if they need to quarantine, if they should do so at home with their families, or if they should even go home at the end of their shift.
"It's a challenging situation they're in," said Kathryn Szewczuk, executive director of the the Lenawee Community Mental Health Authority. "They chose this career but they put themselves in danger … and it's a front line experience every time they go out."
To provide a space to talk about these stressors, the Lenawee Community Mental Health (CMH) is offering support groups specifically for first responders.
The groups are led by the first responder crisis team, made up of EMS, fire, police and dispatch members, along with nurses and CMH therapists.
"This is just an opportunity to talk with people who get it," Szewczuk said.
The crisis team has been around for a number of years and conducts debriefings for first responders who work or encounter a particularly traumatic event. Szewczuk said the team helps first responders work through thoughts that tend to stick with them in those sorts of events.
Support groups are conducted via Zoom, a video conferencing service, at 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
CMH also offers support groups for children of first responders, 11 a.m. on Tuesdays, and spouses, 11 a.m. on Thursdays.
Those interested in joining a group can contact Lyndsay Stephens at 517-284-3030.
CMH began community support groups, including ones for teens and children, in March for those dealing with increased anxieties because of the pandemic. Szewczuk said people have taken advantage of them.
"Anxiety is hugely common right now," she said. "More people are experiencing it and we can help them get through it."
The director said seeing empty store shelves can be an "end-of-the-world-feeling" for some people.
“I think it’s scary because we’ve never experienced something like this before in our lifetimes, at least not to this extent,” Szewczuk said in March.
Community support groups are available daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. via Zoom. Each support group is led by a master's level clinician. To join, visit the Lenawee Community Mental Health Authority on Facebook or its website www.lcmha.org. Those interested can also call the mental health clinic at 517-263-8905.