El Paso first responders focusing on mental health after Walmart shooting

El Paso Strong

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) ⁠— First responders work to save lives daily, but a tragedy like the Walmart mass shooting can weigh heavily on them.

That’s why the El Paso Fire Department is doing everything it can to make sure these first responders are taken care of.

Six minutes was all it took for El Paso’s first responders to arrive and start saving lives at the Walmart on Aug. 3. Timing that according to the El Paso Fire Department was like nothing they had ever seen.

“It’s been difficult for a lot of our guys,” firefighter Bobby Franco said.

El Paso firefighters gather at the scene of a mass shooting on Aug. 3, 2019 in El Paso. (Raul Martinez/KTSM)

The mental health of firefighters has become a priority over the years. Now the focus is not only about their physical health but their mental health as well.

The National Association of Fire Fighters sent peer advisers to El Paso. These advisors have also lived through tragedy’s like mass shootings and can help others.

“We’re finding firefighters are experiencing episodes of PTSD in numbers that we haven’t seen in years,” said Joe Tellez the president of the El Paso Association of Firefighters.

However, getting them to admit or accept help can be a challenge.

“With the fire service, the police department we’re always the macho guys. But mental health is the foundation of the rest of your health. You can’t be physically fit if your minds not,” Franco said.

Police officers walk behind a Walmart at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. Patrick Crusius, 21, opened fire Saturday at the mall that largely caters to the local Mexican-American community. (AP Photo/John Locher)

EPFD officials said mental-health episodes can be triggered months from now and that’s why they are developing their own support system.

“An event like this affects everybody El Paso, being such a close-knit community. If you hurt one of us you hurt all of us. This is really just the first step we have our own peer support team that’s going to get some training to be able to assist the firefighters,” said Tellez.

According to EPFD, the greatest support system they have is each other and that also applies to the community. They encourage others to look out for your neighbor, friends, family members and coworkers mental health.

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