Ex-First Responders Share Wisdom with Redding Police Department Cadets and Frontline Staff

June 30, 2018

The Brave Faces and Voices project began in 2012 as a way for Shasta County residents to reduce stigma and shame associated with mental illness and suicide by telling their inspiring stories of recovery. Since then, nearly 30 people have bravely come forward to share their experiences with the goal of debunking pervasive misconceptions that prevent people from seeking help and support.

Brave Faces, Mike Skondin and David Martinez, shared their stories to Redding Police Department Police Officer Cadets and Records Technicians as part of a Mental Health Awareness training organized by Stand Against Stigma and Shasta County NAMI.

David, a retired firefighter and EMT, shared his experience with the PTSD he developed having to respond to calls where sometimes people he knew were in fatal accidents or suicides. During the time he served as a first responder, there was no way to get help to process what he had gone through, which led to dependence on alcohol to try to block the horrific images that lingered in his mind.

David shared that he was resistant to getting therapy, because it was very stigmatized in his occupation. After an attempt to take his own life, David secretively went to a therapist. Hesitant to accept seeing a counselor at first, David eventually found therapy helpful, and what he appreciated the most was that the therapist, “…didn’t give me solutions he helped me find my own solutions.”

After struggling through relapse, David found himself in therapy, once again. This time it was an Art Therapy class, something he begrudgingly participated in. When he finally decided to give it a shot, he picked up the pencil and drew a circle and images that represented his tribe. From that point he knew reconnecting with his native identity would help him maintain his recovery.

Mike, a U.S. Marine Veteran, spoke about his experiences returning home with PTSD after serving in Colombia and doing drug interdiction. At the time, the military did little to help combat Marines transition back into civilian life.

“I was constantly doing things to match the adrenaline level I experienced in combat,” said Mike. This drive attracted him and jobs with significant risk of physical injury, and led to substance abuse and two suicide attempts.

“I never wanted to die, I was in so much pain I just wanted it to stop,” said Mike, “I didn’t see another way.” Mike also shared how he got the help he needed to recover through VA and Empire Recovery Center.

As Mike and David summed up their stories, they encouraged those in the training to get the help they need before it becomes too intense to handle.

To have a Brave Faces speaker come share with your school, club, organization or staff meeting, contact Christopher Diamond at (530) 225-5970 or cdiamond@co.shasta.ca.us.

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