How local first responders deal with tragic situations: ‘It can be overwhelming at times’

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — From the Virginia Beach mass shooting to last week’s deadly church van crash in Dinwiddie and the tragic killing of a 9-year-old at a Richmond park, each tragic situation can have a lasting impact on the first responders who have to handle the calls for help. Some who spoke with 8News on Monday said there are a lot of times a scene can be difficult for them and can weigh you down. 

Each department has extra precautions to ensure their people are taken care of. People see tough stories on the news every day but behind each one are first responders taking care of the victims. 

“In this line of work we deal with stuff that most people should not see in a lifetime, and we deal with it a little more frequently,” Harold Mayfield with the Richmond Ambulance Authority said. 

With suicide as the number one cause of death for first responders, departments have now increased their mental health support. 

“It can be overwhelming at times, years and years of responding to incidents like this can definitely wear down on you emotionally,” Chesterfield Fire and EMS Lt. Jason Elmore told 8News. “So, we have to take extra precautions.”

“Your mind is not meant to handle but certain things, so anything outside of that norm could trigger it,” Mayfield said. 

Both Elmore and Mayfield, two fathers, told 8News that anything involving children is difficult to deal with. 

“That parental instinct kicks in and it really does impact you,” Elmore said. 

In order to handle this, the Richmond Ambulance Authority has a critical incident stress management team that meets with responders after any traumatic experience.

“We try to tackle things head-on as they happen that way you’re not sitting there just piling up more and more things and then all of a sudden it explodes out,” Mayfield explained. 

In Chesterfield, they have a group of experts and fellow responders. 

“For them to have someone to talk to. To have their minds working well, as well as their bodies to be at peak performance,” Lt. Elmore said. 

Both men said their departments also allow each member to deal with the stresses of the job in their own ways. 

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