EAST HELENA — Being a first responder is no easy task. A first responder is a person who is among those responsible for going immediately to the scene of an accident or emergency to provide assistance.
With this responsibility, the scenes they encounter can be unsettling and can stick with them for a long time. Great Falls police officer Jon Marshall emphasizes the importance of mental health.
“So what we’re trying to do across the state of Montana is teach people, instruct people, how to be able to deal with it, how to understand that, and we’re really trying to create a statewide peer support network of law enforcement that are stepping up to help each other out,” said Marshall.
Marshall also wants the T-6 nonprofit organization to grow statewide, instead of agencies having support groups of their own.
"Having a statewide peer support program that’s comprised of law enforcement of all different careers, deputies, troopers, detention officers, whatever they’re working in, this is the first of its kind,” said Marshall.
With the organization's expanding efforts, Marshall also wants to emphasize getting rid of the stigma that follows first responders seeking mental health support.
“There used to be a stigma around that you didn’t talk about the issues you were having, and nobody wanted to hear, but the reality is that we want to change that,” Marshall said. “There is still a little bit of a stigma out there, but we are here today showing people and telling people that it’s okay to seek mental health.”
T-6 will host two more meetings at the East Valley Fire Department on Friday, Sept. 30, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 1, from 8 a.m. to noon. The nonprofit will be at Kalispell on Oct. 3 and Dec. 5, and in Billings on Nov. 3-5.