Friday, May 25, 2018
Public safety

Franciscan Center program helps first responders deal with job's emotional toll Franciscan Center program helps first responders deal with job's emotional toll Franciscan Center program helps first responders deal with job's emotional toll

TAMPA — When a police officer or firefighter is killed in the line of duty, there's a public grieving process.

The community comes together and counselors rush in to the aid of the fallen's comrades.

But the everyday stresses of the job, especially the more traumatic scenes, often weigh heavy on first responders. And there's no public grieving process for that.

"That's not always the case when you lose someone in a way that people are not accustomed to," said Bradenton police Chief Melanie Bevan, who spoke Friday at the annual first responders' luncheon at the Franciscan Center in Tampa.

Sept. 29 is the feast day for St. Michael, the patron saint of first responders, and each year the center holds a luncheon, now in its third year, in honor on those who have been lost in the line of duty.

But those that attended the event were there to honor Operation Restore, a four-day program at the Franciscan Center where first responders learn to reprocess traumatic events through education, group processes and scientific methods.

The program is spearheaded by Sister Anne Dougherty, director of the Franciscan Center; it has received praise with first responders for its ability to heal.

Bevan, who previously worked as the assistant police chief in St. Petersburg, said many first responders suffer in silence. When she worked in St. Petersburg, she said about 10 officers died from suicide. In 2011, three of the department's officers were killed in the line of duty in one month in shoot-outs with suspects.

"That month kind of defined us," Bevan said. "It kind of separates us. There's a lot of pain that a lot of us have probably never really dealt with and got through. I really am an advocate for programs that help police officers recognize and understand what this job can do to them, and there's so much out there.

"This is what is going to save lives," the police chief said as she turned and faced Dougherty.

In a 2015 article published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, a survey of more than 4,000 first responders found that 6.6 percent had attempted suicide, which is more than 10 times the rate of the general population.

It's that number that makes Operation Restore so important, said several first responders who attended the event.

For acting Tampa police Chief Brian Duggan, the program "was a life-changing experience."

"I'm a big advocate of it. I can tell you that some of our command staff has gone through it, our police officers who've gone through it have become big advocates of the program," Duggan said.

Tampa fire Chief Tom Forward said Dougherty frequently reaches out to his department and the area's law enforcement officers to unveil the resources she has to help those in need.

"So many times on calls, we embrace our jobs and our duties so respectfully and so responsibly, we very seldom seek out that help and support when we have situations going on in and of ourselves," Forward said.

Forward stressed the importance of relationships, saying Dougherty cultivates an "opportunity and a major, major godsend for us to come out in an environment, away from the world . . . because that's who we are. We're out there. We're in there. Every ill of society we deal with it day in and day out."

First responders, he said, have a way of building a wall of armor around their emotions "when inside, we're screaming. When inside, we're just not healthy and we're just not fit."

He encouraged more communication among all first responders, asking them to reach out to anyone who they see that could be struggling with their emotions.

"Sometimes we kick ourselves because an opportunity presented itself and we did nothing," Forward said.

Contact Crystal Owens at [email protected]

Comments

Fatal pedestrian crash closes SB lanes on U.S. 19 in Hudson

PORT RICHEY— The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a fatal crash involving a pedestrian at U.S. 19 and New York Avenue, in Hudson. Troopers said a vehicle hit an unidentified pedestrian. One person has died, according to troopers.According to b...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Two accused of turning St. Petersburg test drive into carjacking

Two accused of turning St. Petersburg test drive into carjacking

MADEIRA BEACH — Two men were arrested Thursday after a carjacking during a test drive led to a crash on Gulf Boulevard less than an hour later, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. According to deputies, 30-year-old Robert Gajate went t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Carlton: Senseless death on a street like no other

Carlton: Senseless death on a street like no other

On a Wednesday morning, a mother and her little girl, not quite 2, went for a stroll along one of Tampa’s prettiest streets.It was nearly lunchtime when they were crossing back over Bayshore Boulevard, headed to the home nearby where they were stayin...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bayshore race claims two lives: child dies day after mother’s death

Bayshore race claims two lives: child dies day after mother’s death

TAMPA — Jessica Raubenolt seized on the sunshine and blue sky at midday Wednesday to take her daughter out in the stroller for a walk along scenic Bayshore Boulevard. Visiting from Ohio, the family had been cursed by rain all week.At the same time, C...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

WIMAUMA — A 30-year-old man died on Thursday after his sedan crashed head-on into a dump truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6 p.m. on U.S. 301 near Lightfood Road.Gerardo Yslas of Immokalee was driving a 2012...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Police: Toddler injured in Bayshore racing incident has died

Police: Toddler injured in Bayshore racing incident has died

TAMPA — The 21-month-old toddler who was critically injured Wednesday when she and her mother were struck by a car racing on Bayshore Boulevard has died.The child, Lillia Raubenolt, was pronounced dead at the hospital on Thursday, police said.PREVIOU...
Updated: 12 hours ago
One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

TAMPA — City officials announced Thursday they are reducing the speed limit on Bayshore Boulevard, one day after a mother and her 21-month-old daughter were struck and fatally injured by a speeding car as they crossed the street.Starting today , city...
Published: 05/24/18
Pasco sheriff: Man stabbed driver, kicked officer

Pasco sheriff: Man stabbed driver, kicked officer

DADE CITY — A 42-year-old man was arrested Tuesday night after the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said he jumped on top of a car, stabbed the driver multiple times and then kicked an officer.Roscoe James faces charges of attempted murder, two counts o...
Published: 05/24/18
Three men charged with street racing in Bayshore Boulevard crash are recent graduates of Tampa Catholic High School

Three men charged with street racing in Bayshore Boulevard crash are recent graduates of Tampa Catholic High School

TAMPA— The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg confirmed Thursday that the three men involved in the Bayshore Boulevard crash that killed an Ohio mother and critically injured her 21-month-old daughter are recent graduates of Tampa Catholic High Schoo...
Published: 05/24/18
GoFundMe page for woman killed on Bayshore has raised more than 10 times its goal

GoFundMe page for woman killed on Bayshore has raised more than 10 times its goal

TAMPA — Friends were hoping to use GoFundMe to raise $2,000 for the family of Jessica Raubenolt, who was struck and killed Wednesday while pushing her 21-month-old daughter in a stroller across Bayshore Boulevard.As of Thursday morning, more than $20...
Published: 05/24/18