Phoenix Fire, Police have teams in place to help 1st responders after tragic incidents

The case involving the death of three children in South Phoenix Monday night, whose mother admitted to murdering them, was a very difficult scene to process, even for seasoned first responders who were called to the home.

Crews from Stations 23 and 28 responded to the home of 22-year-old Rachel Henry. After responding to the tragic call, crew members were able to go home, and they're able to go home, if needed, after any call like this and take the time they need.

So many steps have been taken to keep first responders safe while on the job, and one of those major steps is to protect their mental health. 

"It used to be tough it out, you're fine, we have another call coming after this one, get back on the truck," said Cpt. Kenny Overton with Phoenix Fire.

However, Cpt. Overton says the days of toughing it out after a tough call are over.

In 2010 the department saw a spike in suicides, and because of this, a Mental Health Task Force was formed. Now, firefighters can get the help they need after a high-stress incident like the one from Monday night.

"The crews respond to the scene, they mitigate the emergency, and then, they have the ability to enter into our computers that this was a high-stress incident," said Cpt. Overton. "At that point, our Peer Support Teams are notified and our chiefs are notified, and they'll start contacting members, and then on a member-by-member basis, they'll evaluate them and see what's best for them."           

Each call impacts each member differently, and services are provided as needed.

Firefighters aren't alone when it comes to a need for mental health support, as Phoenix Police offers similar services to its officers.

"Being exposed to repeated trauma over and over can have an effect. We have seen it," said Sgt. Jared Lowe with the Phoenix Police Department.

While Phoenix Police officials couldn't talk specifically in relation to the Henry case, they do have a team in place to help officers who respond to horrific events.

Phoenix Police's Wellness Team helps not only the sworn officers, but the detectives, dispatchers and crime scene techs.

The team is comprised of three components: peer, clinical and spiritual support. They have officers looking out for their peers, a psychologist and five counselors who respond to scenes and hold office hours, and there are chaplains available.

"We try to respond go as a team because for some employees, they want to talk to a peer that has done it," said Sgt. Lowe. "Other folks, they have that clinical side and that is what helps them get through it, and wonder what they need to do to get through it. Other folks question spirituality if they have to go to a tough call."

Peer supporters reportedly follow up days, weeks, and even months after an incident to check in on the members.