What kind of resources can police officers, firefighters, paramedics or dispatch workers rely on to help them cope with job-related trauma?

Earlier this year, KGUN 9 talked to the clinical therapy team at Sierra Tucson about the latest therapies they’re applying with patients.

In talking with the center’s parent company, Acadia Healthcare, former deputy police chiefs are making the most of their new careers. Some, like William Mazur, have become a valuable connection point, putting first responders in touch with trained and specialized therapists.

Mazur worked as a police officer for 25 years, retiring as a department leader for Atlantic City Police in New Jersey.

In his years working as a public safety liaison for Acadia Healthcare, Mazur said almost 8 out of 10 callers start their mental health journey with entry-level support like peer groups and trauma counselors.

For the nearly 2 in 10 first responders who may require in-patient care, Mazur said local resources, like Sierra Tucson’s ‘Red, White and Blue’ program, make a difference in giving professionals the tools they need to process their respective traumas.

“There’s problems (that start to add up),” Mazur said, “so you just start to compartmentalize these things, store these things, and that works. Until, it doesn’t work anymore.

“You see them 30, 40, 60 days (after in-patient care) and there’s clarity in their eyes. They look healthy,” he said, “There’s a glow of that and they have a new outlook and more importantly, they have a new path.”

Mazur reflected on the progress communities and city governments have made to invest in their first responders’ emotional well-being. Especially through the course of the pandemic, Mazur said he’s seen more agencies adopt the vocabulary to describe mental health.

His experience from his first career helped inform the training in his second chapter. Mazur said therapists, who are culturally competent with the challenges of this line of work, can spot signs someone has internalized repeated traumas for years: if they have trouble sleeping, anxiety going into work, or feel angry as a default.

“It sort of subconsciously seeps into your persona. And that becomes who you are. And after seven, eight years, nine years on the job, which is where we typically see this, people start to wonder, how did I get hear? Because this is not how I started out.”

With proper understanding, Mazur said, department and elected leaders can keep experienced first responders on the force, if or when workers hit the trauma plateau at an average of 7-8 years on the job.