West Michigan ministry draws attention to first responder emotional, mental trauma

United States (MNN) – For centuries, the impact of traumatic events on military members was overlooked. Awareness of this issue has grown immensely in recent years. But there’s another sector of society dealing with similar struggles. These are police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other types of first responders.

Warriors Set Free is a branch of Set Free Ministries, an organization devoted to helping people overcome spiritual warfare as it presents itself emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise.

Steve Prince of Warriors Set Free says many of the issues they deal with alongside service members are similar to what first responders encounter. This could be post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, or recurring memories about a traumatic event.

Prince says, “I met with a local police officer. He told me about one of his officers who responded to an apartment fire and watched a lady basically die on her balcony and he couldn’t help her. And that traumatizes that officer.”

While there is admittedly little data on the subject, a recent survey found that out of 4,000 first responders, 6.6 percent had attempted suicide. And in 2016, there were 132 reports of first responder suicides in the United States, but those were just the reports made voluntarily.

Another survey found that 85 percent of participants experienced mental health-related symptoms due to their work.

Sadly, many individuals experiencing these kinds of trials go without help. Prince says the majority of first responders are men who are still affected by the cultural expectation that they should hide any sort of weakness.

“Men, in general, don’t want to ask for help,” he says. “And then you add on top of that a military mindset or a policeman’s mindset and they’re very, very resistant to getting help.”

Because Set Free Ministries has so much experience with counseling people through these trials, they want to raise awareness among first responders and their families of the resource they offer.

“Set Free Ministries helps absolutely everybody. I just am focusing on military veterans myself. And we also have a member of our staff who’s a former police officer. So we know that’s a huge need and we are seeking to engage more with that police, firefighter, first responder population, also.”

While there are other resources, such as chaplains within the police force, Prince says, “It’s a matter of what resources are effective. And of course, with us being a ministry, biblical guidance and biblical knowledge pretty much trumps anything else. I have a masters in counseling and I’ve come to understand that the only secular counseling techniques that work and work well are rooted in Scripture, whether the general public knows that or not.”

In April, Set Free is co-hosting a seminar with Sheepdog Seminars, an organization focused on helping those with a “sheepdog” heart to protect others. Sheepdog Seminars will be sharing practical tools that can help people suffering from a traumatic event heal. Set Free Ministries will be bringing the Gospel in:

“It’s the only thing we have hope for because we make mistakes, we sin, we have issues that the only forgiveness we get is through Christ.

“And if someone’s carrying regret from an event that happened, we bring biblical knowledge of saying ‘If you made a mistake, if you did something—even if you did it on purpose—you can be forgiven just like Christ forgives all sin. A lot of these guys carry this trauma of one event.”

You can learn more about the event here. Also, stay tuned. In the next few weeks, we’ll share more about what to expect from the “Sheepdog Spirit Seminar.”