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Podcast: Providing Support for First Responders during Stressful Times

Podcast featuring Dr. Jarrod SadulskiFaculty Member, Criminal Justice and
Rhonda Kelly, Executive Director of All Clear Foundation

First responders and law enforcement officers have faced an unprecedented amount of stress in the last year. One positive benefit is that it has forced many first responders to acknowledge these stressors, which has helped reduce the stigma around mental health care. In this episode, AMU’s Dr. Jarrod Sadulski talks to Rhonda Kelly, executive director of All Clear Foundation, whose mental health initiative, ResponderStrong, provides resources, tools, and training to help first responders heal from trauma and build resiliency for both themselves and their families.

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Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Well, good morning, everybody. Welcome to my guest, Rhonda Kelly, who’s the Executive Director of All Clear Foundation. Good morning.

Rhonda Kelly: Good morning, Jarrod. I’m happy to be here.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Well, grateful for your time here today. Today, we’re discussing a very important topic and that’s associated with first responder stress. And here with 2020, we’ve certainly had some challenges with law enforcement and first responders.

And looking over some of the statistics, we found that the police ages range between 55 and 60, 56% of those are at risk of dying from a heart attack, which is 35% more than average. We’ve also found that first responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. And 20% to 25% of first responders experience post-traumatic stress.

There was a study earlier this year by the Major Cities Chief Association, which was comprised of 69 law enforcement agencies across the United States following the unrest that occurred after the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis.

They discovered that more than 2,000 law enforcement officers were injured within just weeks of the unrest, and between May 25th and July 31st, there were 8,700 protests nationwide with 574 declared riots that ultimately led to violence and various criminal acts.

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There was a study conducted in Indiana and found that 80% of police officers have considered leaving the job this year and that 40% feel that morale is as low as it’s ever been. So these statistics really represent the problems that are occurring in the first responder field. So could you please provide a brief bio and an overview of your background?

Rhonda Kelly: Absolutely. I started in emergency response back in 1996. I was in expanded protocol, EMT among other roles working for the US Antarctic Program on icebreakers. So I spent four years down there. When I started closing in on 30 and thought it was time to get my “adult job” I landed in Denver where the Antarctic Program had been based at the time.

Thought that I wanted to be a nurse or a PA, while I was shadowing them in ERs, trying to differentiate the roles, I continued to see firefighter paramedics come in.

At the time on the side, I was volunteering as an EMT for a rural ambulance and also working full-time as an EMT for Rural Metro ambulance. I kept seeing the firefighter paramedics, decided that looks like a lot of fun, which is the thought that immediately proceeds a lot of my major life decisions for better or for worse. Jumped ship again, became a firefighter paramedic in Aurora, Colorado for 17 years.

During my career, I picked up my RN license working part-time as an ER and psych ER nurse. Toward the end of my career there, the opportunity to become a health and safety officer for the department opened up. I applied for that, tested and was selected.

I was very interested in the overall wellbeing, physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and what I really, really wanted at the time was develop a solid mental health program for my agency.

At that time, which was back in 2011, we knew that suicide was the leading occupational killer of emergency responders across branches, yet we weren’t really talking about it openly and we weren’t doing anything proactive. We weren’t educating our people to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stress injury and development, and that terminology is borrowed from the military.

We weren’t giving them the tools to protect themselves from it. And we weren’t improving the available resources to make them better capable of handling the stressors and the challenge and the trauma that responders are exposed to.

As I started that role, I began to push immediately for a psychologist, for a peer support team and for a host of other supports.

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Our leaders at the time recognized the need for this, but they didn’t prioritize it financially. And I understood, cancer’s a big issue in the fire service. I also wanted second sets of bunkers, better laundering procedures. Sleep deprivation across branches is a huge issue, I knew we needed more personnel, we needed more stations.

That all changed on July 22nd, 2012 when I received a call at 12:30 in the morning that somebody had opened up fire inside the movie theater at the Aurora theatre shooting, and the chiefs asked me, “Can you roll out that program you keep talking about?”

So that was the birth of our psychological support program. During that same time, I happened to come in contact with the University of Colorado’s Medical School’s CU Anschutz. And in particular, Matt Vogl, who was the associate director of the National Center for Depression at the time.

He approached me and said he wanted to work with firefighters, what did we need? And I pitched him that we need to stop working in isolation, not only within our agency, but within our branches: law enforcement, Aurora PD, they were struggling just as much as we were. EMS, dispatch, all of our subsidiaries to include coroner’s personnel, search and rescue, wild land firefighter, corrections officers, the list goes on.

And explained to him we were all suffering from preventable causes from the stress injury accumulation, and that two of the biggest factors were that arguably our single greatest exposure over the course of our careers is the intense trauma and pain and suffering of others.

That is compounded by a culture that tells us very, very clearly that to admit any sign of mental or emotional impact is to admit a sign of weakness and you just don’t belong here. So those two things in conjunction with one another and the complete absence of training to prepare us for this were really problematic across branches.

He thought it was a great idea, didn’t know how to fund it, went on to create a program called the National Mental Health Innovation Center also at CU and gave me a call in 2015 saying we could take this conversation to a different level.

And 2016 we founded ResponderStrong, a mental health initiative that is a collaboration between emergency responders across branches, law enforcement’s very prominently involved in it, and our advocates, including researchers, educators, clinicians, foundations, healthcare organizations. To really improve the available mental health supports for responders and for their family members. We know the family members wear an invisible uniform and oftentimes are also suffering but don’t understand why.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: That’s a great point.

Rhonda Kelly: Absolutely. And I left Aurora Fire in 2017 to run ResponderStrong full-time. While doing that, I happened to meet the leadership of Global Medical Response, was really impressed by their sincerity and their desire to improve the wellbeing of their EMS personnel. They have 38,000 personnel across the country. We talked a lot about how EMS is oftentimes not given the same social prestige as law enforcement and fire.

To give two examples, doesn’t get the same benefits, doesn’t get the same pay. Really encouraged them that they had the reach and the awareness, and this was something that we could make a big impact on the EMS community. So they offered me a job. I became the national director of health, wellness, and resilience for them. All Clear Foundation is stood up by GMR.

So they offered to allow me to move ResponderStrong into All Clear Foundation to serve as the mental health component and continue to lead it from within there. I joined GMR in January of 2020, it’s been quite the year to join one of the largest medical, well, the largest medical provider in the world.

And we have found that the approach that we took as a collaborative group of responders in ResponderStrong has been very well received this year and our content is in demand. Fortunately, continuing to be able to work with both ResponderStrong inside of All Clear Foundation and GMR, the position for executive director of All Clear Foundation came open last month and I was offered it. So currently I’m transitioning out of the GMR life role and transitioning to full-time executive director of All Clear.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Wow, that’s great. Yeah, that’s definitely some very important work. So I certainly congratulate you on that. That’s very impressive. So was looking at some of the statistics in law enforcement in particular, and I saw that suicides are responsible for around 13.8% of police officer deaths compared to only 3% in other occupations. What role does PTSD have in first responders?

Rhonda Kelly: That is a fantastic question. When I was a kid, my mom was actually Virginia Highway Patrol. So I had an inkling, I got some exposure to law enforcement early on in life, and that expanded it throughout my career.

What we see, and I’d mentioned earlier that we have really shifted within All Clear Foundation and ResponderStrong program to the stress injury formation model that’s taken from the military.

We recognize that these high-risk professions, including the military and law enforcement, the officers who go into it, if you ask any of them why they do what they do, why they take the risks they do, it’s invariably some variation of, “I’m here to help people.”

All responders identify with their role to a significant extent. It’s not that they do law enforcement, it is that I am an officer, I am a sheriff, I am a deputy, whatever the choice is.

And we find that there’s this collision, there’s this passion, this intense identity wanting to do good in the world, but witnessing the worst parts of other people’s lives. Nobody calls 911 to say, “Hey, I’m having a great day. Why don’t you come over and celebrate with me?”

Law enforcement in particular comes in and they see the worst of the worst. They see the worst of what humans can do to one another. Almost everybody is lying to law enforcement for various reasons.

It leads officers through a very shifted worldview. All branches see a very narrow spectrum of humanity, but in our minds, it gets expanded to be the totality, the whole spectrum. We tend to become very defensive in response to that, particularly law enforcement. And when law enforcement wants to become more protective of those that they care about, it’s oftentimes seen as controlling. So this is part of the stress injury progression.

When responders are trying to translate their work skills, the things they’re praised for and promoted for into their home life, we find it doesn’t work very well. And that leads to the erosion most likely of the home life, which is one of the greatest supports for responders.

And in law enforcement this year, you had mentioned it earlier, we see officers who’ve really dedicated their lives to public safety, who are really invested in and identify in their role, now being vilified at mass nationally and internationally in many cases.

So it’s not that law enforcement systems are being scrutinized and are being criticized, it’s that law enforcement officers across the country are being vilified.

And it’s a tremendous demoralizing impact on law enforcement that can lead to a variety of responses on the stress injury spectrum that can include depression, anxiety, substance misuse as an attempt to numb. The more hyperreactive an individual becomes as they move along that stress injury formation pathway, the more active their amygdala gets, the more likely they are to perceive neutral events as threatening. It’s an entire process. It’s not just mental or emotional, it’s also very physiological.

So I guess I’m kind of wandering around in this. We talk a lot about post-traumatic stress is towards the red end, towards the injured and of the stress injury continuum. And it impacts not only the individual’s internal life, their self-talk, the way they view themselves as being effective or not in the world, the way they view themselves of having meaning, mission and purpose, it also impacts the way they interact with those around them that they love, and it impacts the way they deal with society.

It’s not an isolated occurrence. It’s not just like any other medical condition that, “Oh, you have diabetes and you manage it this way.” This is pervasive.

But the good news on this is that we find for all responders and law enforcement in particular, post-traumatic stress doesn’t tend to develop from just the one big call, whether that’s the theater shooting or a school shooting. It tends to be more the cumulative smaller T traumas over the course of a career.

The witnessing so many different incidents of child abuse, the drive-bys, the shootings, the hangings, the stabbings, the suicides, this stuff over time adds up. So we see that the stress injury accumulates over the course of a career.

The good side to that is that if our damage is cumulative, our protective mechanisms can also be cumulative. So small things like journaling, gratitude practices, all the things that are put out there to bolster resilience that by themselves seem like they shouldn’t have much of an impact, they do. It’s the erosion of the accumulation of trauma by these small acts.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Right. Those are, those are great points. I’ve noticed in my own law enforcement career, I’ve seen the police suicides, I’ve seen the adverse impact of stress that you’re certainly right, is cumulative, it occurs over time. And often officers don’t even realize that they’re being so impacted by stress. I’ve seen the situations where it ultimately has destroyed marriages, it’s destroyed officers’ lives.

And I wondered what is the difference in officers who are able to be resilient and successfully manage stress throughout a police career versus those that are struggling from police stress?

So what I did was I set out and I did a two-year qualitative study and I interviewed officers from different parts of the country. And I had a criteria set up for what defined an officer that successfully managed stress. And basically through this study, we were able to develop five themes that reflected effective stress management strategies.

And you’ve mentioned that the police identity, and I think one of the biggest challenges is that a police officer is a police officer 24 hours a day even when they take the uniform off. They’re often compelled to carry a firearm when they’re off duty so that if an incident occurs that they’re able to respond, and it’s very often that police officers really never leave that mentality.

And one of the things that came out of this study was the importance of having a life and identity outside of policing. And some of the participants would explain that they would purposefully make friends with people that are not in law enforcement so that they’re spending time with people outside of work that share a whole different worldview and also represent different ways to solve problems.

And for some of the participants, they found that very helpful. Others would develop a completely different identity when they’re outside of work and doing activities that weren’t related to police work or even within the police culture. So those were some of the things.

Peer support programs were definitely identified in this study as being effective. Training in terms of stress management training and the need for employee evaluations to focus on how the officers handling police stress is something that came out of the study as well. As well as how experienced in communication with family members can also help to alleviate that stress.

So as we talk about these strategies and resources, what do you think are the most helpful for officers in managing stress throughout their career?

Rhonda Kelly: Oh, fantastic question. And I love your findings. What we have seen across the country is when we ask law enforcement officers and other responders to identify their top stressors, the order shifts around a bit, but we find administrative stress, inability to manage stress effectively, financial stressors, and close interpersonal relationship stressors are the ones that are most often cited.

To your point earlier about relationships, we see that most suicide notes indicate a recent failure of a romantic relationship. We see that as the last straw and also a sign that this person has been progressing along that stress injury continuum unrecognized, or without effective intervention from others.

When we look at what is the best way, the best prescription to combat the stress injury, it is developing resiliency skills. We all have resiliency. Over time, it can erode. It’s just like muscular strength. We all work out to get on the job, but we don’t stop working out there. We have to maintain, and we have to grow to meet the challenges as those increase in our lives.

And I think this is one of the most important messages to put out there to responders is, our culture tells us that we’re supposed to be superheroes, especially law enforcement, and that you should just come in equipped to handle all of the mental and emotional and physiologic challenges of the job.

Yet the mental and emotional, we’re not trained on. We’re trained for the physical stuff, we’re trained for the skills. But this other piece, this most important piece that can still have the most detrimental impact on our quality of life, we’re not given a formal training for.

So as we created ResponderStrong, and as I’d mentioned, we had very heavy participation from law enforcement, we recognized that we have to change our culture. Our culture has to be one that supports us in meeting these challenges, not one that accuses us of being weak if we don’t automatically have the ability to deal with the worst of what we see out in the field, compounded also by also sleep issues, hunger and not having a time to eat, dehydration, all of those things. But anyway, we really need to change our culture to be more supportive.

One of our first actions was to create a mental health curriculum that was taught in the community college programs here or launched originally in the community college programs, recognizing they train more than half the emergency responders in Colorado with a particular emphasis in rural communities, a presence there, and that the majority of their adjunct staff are current or former responders.

So we saw we could have this dual opportunity, not only to train those who are coming in to recognize mental and emotional injuries as no different than physical injuries, we need awareness, early detection, treatment, and then rehab and return to the line.

But also that it’s the most likely injury they’re going to sustain over the course of their career. The other side of that is we knew that those adjunct instructors most often participate in the training divisions of their agencies. So once we got them trained up, they could take it back.

The program as we launched it three years ago now, it has expanded not only to the community colleges, but to individual agencies, to peer support team training, and recently was adopted by Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. The board in the state attorney general’s office that certifies all law enforcement in Colorado as their mandatory minimum mental health training.

In that training, to your point earlier, we talk a lot about stress injury formation, how to recognize when it’s happening. Because this is what I think is one of the greatest disservices the emergency response cultures have done, law enforcement in particular, is we have adopted the signs of stress injury and made them swagger, we’ve glamorized them, attributed them to signs of a good career.

You know, being slightly angry, maybe having a couple divorces, maybe drinking too much on occasion, sleeplessness. I’m sure you know in your career quite often there’s a lot of boasting for who can get by on the least amount of sleep or who had the least amount of sleep. And what we have failed to do is really recognize these aren’t good signs.

These aren’t signs of accomplishment, these are early signs of injury, and that we need to head these off at the pass. So with programs like the curriculum, we really wanted to change the perception of our culture for those who are coming in and then expand it through the ranks, coming from the grassroots up and from leadership down in addition to some of the other programs we’ve put out there.

The other thing that I think is really important for law enforcement in particular to understand, and I love that you brought it up the point of creating friendships outside the law enforcement world.

We tend to like to stay with our own people, people who have the same dark sense of humor as we do, people who won’t correct us on our worldview, people who have shared oftentimes traumatic experience with us.

And that’s okay in moderation, but it can’t be our world because there’s no checks and balances, and it allows us all to slide into this dark place of narrower vision that doesn’t allow us to enjoy other aspects of our personality, of ourselves

And this has been a population that we’ve been very concerned about this year, watching the social and media-based attacks on law enforcement, how many officers are leaving prematurely.

Many are retiring earlier than they intended to and now they’re retiring in the absence of the preparation for retirement. They don’t get the gold watch, the badge, the party, the celebration that they traditionally would have.

And they’re leaving not to a world of golf courses or whatever they envisioned their retirement to be, but they’re coming into a world of social distancing where now they no longer have the support of those who have shared lived experience.

They don’t have the structure to their days, they don’t have the identity, or in many cases, unfortunately, they’re feeling shamed that they invested their life in a career that now has seemingly turned its back on them. And what a perfect recipe for depression and anxiety and suicidal ideation this has created for those officers.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Right. And those are great points. What is taught in resiliency training for first responders and how can more agencies engage in this type of training?

Rhonda Kelly: Ah, there is a whole wealth. There’s been a great deal of interest in resiliency training over the past couple of years. 2020 has of course amplified the demand for that. And I think one of the gifts of 2020, and not that there’ve been many, but we have been fighting for years to decrease stigma of mental and emotional health challenges for law enforcement and other responders.

We found 2020 has finally gotten so over the top and has created so many stressors that more and more responders are willing to acknowledge, “Okay, it’s fine. What I’m feeling inside is acceptable right now.” So for resilience, one of the things that we’ve been talking about a lot lately is self-awareness, recognizing the changes in ourselves.

In the past we tend to miss them because they’re insidious, they’re slow to develop. And as we talked about earlier, we oftentimes think those are just signs of the job. I’m supposed to be sleepless, I’m supposed to have bad relationships, I’m supposed to work all the time, I’m supposed to be cynical. And that’s not true. Those are all signs of stress injury in development.

So awareness is a big one. Normalization, recognizing that this is a response to the job, it’s not the best response to the job. And then equipping responders with the knowledge that your mental and emotional health is not separate from your physical health. You can’t function well mentally and emotionally if you’re not prioritizing your sleep, if you are not eating healthily, if you are not getting movement, if you’re not getting outside.

So we’ve really put a lot of education out there about how there is an overall, a holistic approach to resiliency in your life and you can’t neglect any one segment of it and expect to be doing well.

We also talk about that responders have really stepped up, they have stepped into a role that is very demanding on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, physiologically. And that if they want to not only survive the career, but actually thrive in it and meet their goals, their objectives, they have to take care of themselves on all fronts.

And this isn’t something that they are just born to do. This is something that they have to work very hard at,protecting themselves and their families.

As we talked about earlier, that the families oftentimes are the first ones to see that a responder, especially a law enforcement officer is struggling. But the families haven’t been equipped in the past with the knowledge, the awareness of what that struggle is.

So many times when an officer comes home and is angry, doesn’t want to talk, the personality has changed, they’re in parasympathetic nervous system backlash, they’re completely tapped for their sympathetic system over the course of the shift and they’re in physiologic recovery.

But what it looks like to the family is lethargy, apathy, disinterest, contempt, all the things that become seeds of discontent in that relationship. This is something we want officers to be aware of so that they can have that conversation with their family, “Listen, when I come home and I just say, it’s been a bad shift, give me space, it’s not about you.”

And we have also worked with officers to recognize we’re so used to doing after-action reports that emphasize all the different details of a call, recognizing that’s not what you do when you go home.

If you want to protect your family from the details of the call, that’s absolutely fine, but don’t protect them from your emotions. You can talk about your emotions without talking what triggered them. And that can actually deepen the intimacy with your family instead of inadvertently shutting them out.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Wow, that’s great information. That’s a great point. I did a police stress workshop in the nation of Belize, and I actually do a lot of humanitarian work down in Belize. And, and I participated in a police workshop that included police officers from all over the nation.

And that was really one of the biggest things that the participants talked about, is the impact that the stress is having on their family and how their family doesn’t understand how to react whenever they come home with all of the stressors that occurred throughout their shifts.

So that’s, that’s a great thing that you’re bringing attention to it. I really admire that. If a first responder is listening today and is in serious trouble in terms of mental health due to cumulative stress, what would you tell them?

Rhonda Kelly: First and foremost, don’t go down the shame hole, you are not the only person. And it is actually a mark of strength to recognize what’s going on with you internally and to reach out for help more so than it is to hide it and to try to prevent others from being aware that you’re struggling.

We’ve seen in tons of the data out there that at any given point in time, somewhere between 40% and 50% of responders, and this is across branches, have considered suicide.

We really emphasize to law enforcement, to other responders, that if you think you are the only one struggling, look at the data, you’re wrong. And if you think somebody that you work with is struggling, look at the data, you’re probably right. Go ahead and reach out.

But to your point about somebody who recognizes that they are struggling, reaching out to somebody who’s trusted, you mentioned peer support earlier, that’s a great venue. If an agency has a mental health professional, that is a great venue to go to.

If not, and if the officer’s concerned about confidentiality, which we know is one of the biggest concerns for all responders out there, the fear that they’ll become grist for the rumor mill, that the administration will find out they’re struggling and they will be barred from promotion or potentially lose their job in the case of law enforcement, if it comes out that they’re struggling with anxiety or depression or something that requires medications, there is a great fear that those medications will preclude carrying a firearm.

And to your point earlier, a firearm becomes a mechanical partner. It becomes part of the officer’s life, even off duty, carrying it for a variety of very valid reasons.

But really encouraging them to go to vetted resources. We’ve had so many officers and other responders who just walk into an ER or just walk into a general facility and don’t receive the specialized care and support that they need because the clinicians they’re approaching just don’t understand the culture.

They don’t understand the occupational exposure and they don’t understand that many times the “low-hanging fruit” of psychology, “Oh, this is just addiction, or this is just anxiety,” is a symptom of a deeper underlying layer of undiagnosed trauma.

So really encouraging people who are reaching out and don’t have agency-based supports that they trust, to go to organizations like All Clear and look for vetted resources.

These are clinicians who understand emergency responders, who understand law enforcement, and who are going to be able to get you back to the job.

Case in point around that, one of the spinoff programs from ResponderStrong is a program called the National Emergency Responder & Public Safety Center, a prominent police and public safety psychologist, Jamie Brower, who was one of the advisory council members for ResponderStrong recognized this need.

She created a curriculum for master’s levels clinicians, since those are the ones who see the bulk of emergency responder clients, to train them up on the culture and on the underlayment of trauma, not necessarily so they can treat it, but so they can recognize it and redirect the responder when necessary.

She’s launched and she’s been working extensively with healthcare plans across the country to improve the quality of care responders can get. Because back to that financial point, we know many responders won’t utilize their benefits out of fear that it’s a fast track to administration and they can’t afford to pay out of pocket for care.

This is a way to help them maximize utilization of their benefits while getting the quality care right out of the gate. We know the window of opportunity to reach out to many responders is very narrow and it’s absolutely devastating when a responder does reach out and reaches out to somebody who doesn’t understand.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Right. Those, those are great points. You’d mentioned the resources through All Clear Foundation. Can you provide an overview of All Clear Foundation?

Rhonda Kelly: Oh, absolutely. Thank you. So All Clear Foundation was conceptualized about three years ago. It launched formerly in October of 2019. It has a twist on the model that we see for many foundations out there. As I mentioned, ResponderStrong, we were focused on mental health and improving the systems of delivery for that care for responders.

All Clear Foundation, with its corporate backing, saw itself in a unique position to aggregate corporate donations, also philanthropic and grant funded donations, to identify locally and regionally successful programs like ResponderStrong who had quality content but lacked the infrastructure and, quite frequently, the fundraising ability to scale nationally.

So it’s All Clear’s mission to aggregate the funds, fundraising is a large part of their mission, to identify organizations across the country who are doing great work in the responder realm, to aid in funding them, and also to build them into a collaborative network.

We know that when responders reach out for help, one of the biggest problems we’ve had is our landscape hasn’t been organized.

There has been no easily accessible and easily navigable system that encompasses day-to-day counseling, prescriptive support, whether that’s for sleep or the hyper arousal that comes with post-traumatic stress or anxiety that also incorporates culturally competent residential treatment facilities, which we often find are paired with those for the military to manage post-traumatic stress, substance misuse, and also psychiatric issues that are arising from the job occupational injuries.

So this is what All Clear Foundation is working towards. Let’s build that landscape, let’s organize it so that we have an easily navigable and accessible ecosystem for responders across the country.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Excellent. What can our audience do if they wish to learn more about All Clear Foundation to provide support?

Rhonda Kelly: Ah, is a great place to start. There’s also presence on Facebook and also on Instagram. If you’re looking specifically for mental health support, so you can locate ResponderStrong within All Clear Foundation, we also have a separate website.

We also have tools. And you had asked earlier about things that agencies can do to support their personnel. We know that that human connection, that ability to connect with others who have shared experience is a key part of normalization of the responder internal experience.

To that end, All Clear Foundation created a tool called ResponderRel8. It is a confidential and currently free due to generous donations, chat, peer-to-peer chat tool that allows responders to chat anonymously with other responders across the country.

There are several different chat rooms. Some are specific for law enforcement, some are specific for other topics. That is out there and locatable through All Clear Foundation.

We also, more towards the resilience side, have a tool called the ResponderStrong wellness tool that is free and confidential for all emergency responders, healthcare workers, and their family members.

This tool is designed to equip responders with the structure to identify when something’s off in their life. I think we’ve all been in the place where we know something’s wrong but we’re not quite sure what it is.

We have a thousand pieces of vetted content that is specific—most of it is specific to just the human behind the badge and the uniform—but then we have specific pieces for law enforcement and their experience, and for wildland fire and for other demographics.

This content’s divided into domains and sub domains. The tool offers personal quizzes that are private, that allow responders to identify what areas in their life they’re really doing well in and what areas in their life they could really use a little more support.

Then the system is intelligent. It helps bring the content that is tagged with the interests of the individual to the top of the feed so that they can continue to explore that content.

We’re also populating it with state-based resources for all of the resiliency content that’s in there. That’s another big thing that All Clear Foundation does. We have a resource directory that is vetted with more than 800 different supports for responders and for their families across the country, not just mental health, but also financial health, physical health, and spiritual health—the whole range.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Excellent. Excellent information. And again, that website is I would like to thank our guest today, Rhonda Kelly, who is the executive director of All Clear Foundation. Thank you very much for sharing this important information. Are there any remaining thoughts?

Rhonda Kelly: No. Thank you very much for the work that you do. And I’m really grateful to have this opportunity to connect with you.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time. I’ve certainly learned a lot. This was great. Thank you.

Rhonda Kelly: Thank you.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor at American Military University. He has over 22 years’ experience in the field of homeland security. Jarrod has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Europe, and Central America on the topic of human trafficking, counter terrorism, police responses to domestic terrorism, and police stress management. For more information, please review

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