Organization helps Tallahassee firefighters find mental health resources


They are the first to respond in an emergency, to keep you and Tallahassee safe. But under the protective gear there is a heavy burden that firefighters carry with them at all times.

Lance Butler is an engineer with the Tallahassee Fire Department. He is one of the 300 or so members who protect us from harm. And while he’s trained to fight house fires, he’s fighting something personal.

“After a call in 2018, I was diagnosed with PTSD,” Butler said.

He asked for help – only to find a lack of resources.

“After that I started trying to ask for help after I found myself in a pretty dark place,” Butler said. “I realized there weren’t a lot of resources.

That’s what brought Kellie O’Dare from Florida A&M University to the Tallahassee Fire Department. She is the director of the 2nd Alarm Project, an organization that provides resources to first responders. She’s also here with 40 clinicians learning about firefighters.

“We do a lot of mental health awareness training within our first responder organizations,” O’Dare said.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, firefighters face irregular schedules and painful experiences, resulting in depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Firefighters also face obstacles in seeking help, including transportation and costs. She wants to help improve that and keep firefighters safe.

“The best job we can do to make sure that there are resources available for them, it just increases their quality of life.”

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