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Join the CEO of our sponsor, Joe Gorton as he guest hosts the show today. We are fortunate to be joined by Salt Lake City firefighter Evan Fitzgerald. Evan is doing some amazing work with peer support and this is one conversation you don’t want to miss!!
My name is Evan Fitzgerald, I also go by the nickname Fitz. I currently work full time for Salt Lake City Fire Department, and part time at North View Fire District as the Health and Wellness Coordinator. Establishing and managing programs that support Frontline Athlete wellness is my passion. After working six years as a health and wellness coordinator, I have motivated changes that have made a positive impact throughout the state of Utah. With the help of awesome mentors, I developed the Firefighter Fitness Coordinator Certification curriculum, which the Salt Lake City Fire Department currently uses.
I began building a powerful respect for the Frontline Community the day after I turned 7, when Firefighters and Paramedics responded to my farm house. As my brothers and I waited to be taken to school, a tractor accident instantly took the life of my Dad. After the Firefighters explained that nothing could be done, my older brother immediately began punching one of the crew members pleading for him to fight for our Father’s life. I spent the next 10 years analyzing the meaning of that day. I began to understand how honorable it was for those Firefighters to respond to the chaos of my worst day. At the age of 17 I was given a “paid on call” position at the Mountain Green Fire Department, beginning my career as a Firefighter. I then became an EMT and soon after became a Paramedic. After another 10 years of responding to the homes of devastated grieving families, I felt the burden carried by the Firefighter who, years earlier, allowed my brother to hit him and who also listened to the plea of my broken family. The compounding weight of exposures to trauma, sleep deprivation, and constant stress caused me to buckle. These experiences sent me searching for ways to support the wellbeing of First Responders after hearing and seeing similar struggles in fellow Firefighters.
As I began formulating an understanding of Frontline wellness issues, I searched out the specified certifications that would support my pursuit. I earned my Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator certification through the National Strength and Conditioning Association as well as my Peer Fitness Trainer certification through the International Association of Firefighters. In furthering my understanding, I consumed any relevant research that I could. I found that fire departments not only needed the information that I discovered, they also need systems to incorporate the practical application of that information. Developing an implementation strategy was the next step so I took what I learned to the respected individuals in my Department and they helped me figure out the best way to present this information to the Administration and Union, who eventually gave their support. Using evidence-based information as the framework, I developed a holistic wellness system. I put this system in a 700-page text that has been reviewed by experts in Nutrition, Psychology, Exercise Science, and sleep medicine. It’s used as the main resource for our “Fit to Respond / Fit to Retire” certification. To bring all Frontline members together in this wellness effort, I developed a competition called the “Frontline Throwdown”, which is a yearly event held at the Utah Fitcon. This event allows teams from Military, Police and Fire groups to use their tactical fitness in a non-emergency event as well as provide a wellness training platform which is expanding this year to include 12 hours of training.
My success isn’t mine alone, not only have I had exceptional mentors, I also have an amazingly supportive family. My wife Sarah has assisted me with Firefighter spouse trainings. She’s patient with my long work days, and she definitely takes on more than her fair share of responsibility around the house. When I’m not at work I love spending time with her and our three boys. We enjoy traveling, swimming, Flowrider surfing, indoor skydiving, skateboarding, and boating. Each of my boys ages 9, 5, and 3 are awesome and contribute in their own way. The main drive behind my work is to give my family a living example of the value within the struggle to find meaning in chaos, and then managing the responsibility of that uncovered potential.

Join the well respected Blogger, Educator, and EMS Provider Amy Eisenhauer and I as we discuss the societal perceptions of substance abuse and mental health in the EMS world. Amy Eisenhauer is a dynamic presenter at Emergency Medical Services (EMS) conferences nationwide, raising awareness on topics such as provider suicide, response to hoarding events, and career development for EMS professionals. As a Certified Emergency Medical Technician, she has served the New Jersey Emergency Medical Services community as a volunteer and career provider since 1995. In addition to providing high quality medical care, Amy has taken on challenging roles as an EMS educator and training officer. Most notably, Amy is a contributing author for EMS World magazine and also hosts an interactive blog on EMS at TheEMSsiren.com, committed to improving the EMS community as a whole.
https://theemssiren.com/

Join married Sheriff Deputies Shawn and Jeff Thomas and I as we discuss mental health, peer support, and wellness amongst first responders. They created First Responder Conferences and have been gaining momentum since its inception in 2016. Shawn Thomas has been a deputy for the King County Sheriff’s Office in Seattle, WA for 21 years. She is married to a deputy and has two teenage boys. She currently is an explosive detection K9 handler and is a team leader for her peer support team. Shawn also volunteers with two non-profit organizations, Code 4 NW and Blue H.E.L.P.

Jeff Thomas is a 30 year veteran of the King County Sheriff’s Office, which includes an 18 year stint as a member of the entry unit on the county SWAT team. Jeff has held several training positions within the sheriff’s office to include Field Training Officer, Firearms Instructor, State qualified Swat instructor, Motor Instructor, as well as a Taser Instructor. He also was a member of the King County Honor Guard for 16 years. He is co-founder of First Responder Conferences, along with his wife, Deputy Shawn Thomas.

In 2016 Shawn and Jeff founded 1st Responder Conferences and organized their first health and wellness conference in Seattle for first responders and their families. The reason for the conference was to focus on first responder’s mental health and wellness and to convey three things.

1. You are not alone
2. Reach out for help if you are struggling
3. To provide confidential resources for first responders to get the help they need.

The conference was well received and first responders reached out for help. It was clear that this type of event needed to continue to help others. Shawn and Jeff were asked by other agencies to bring the conference to other states, so they did.

In two short year’s they have organized 10 mental health and wellness conferences around the country and have 6 upcoming conferences scheduled. 1st Responder Conferences’ partners with Code 4 NW and Blue H.E.L.P. Together these three organizations are working together and helping first responders and their families all over the country.

1st Responder Conferences is committed to the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of the public safety work force and work with leaders in the public safety profession to make this possible. We recognize that first responders are our greatest asset and we feel it is our responsibility to create a climate that supports good health and resiliency.

We are dedicated to promoting awareness surrounding the difficulties of public safety professionals and inspiring conversations that minimize the stigma associated with the stresses our first responder’s experience. Through our conferences’ we provide education and resources for agencies, individuals, and family members who find themselves faced with a personal crisis. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all of those who dedicate themselves to protecting and serving others.

http://www.1stresponderconferences.org/

Join the leaders at this show’s sponsor, Stepstone Connect, as we discuss the psychology of super heroes. Such a deep and fascinating conversation about the parallels between fictional super heroes like Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk and real life heroes such as fireman and cops. These two professionals certainly left me with a deeper understanding of mental illness, coping mechanisms, and treatment of trauma. You don’t wanna miss this one!!!

Join Kristin Walker, CEO of The Mental Health News Radio Network, and I as we discuss the topic of narcissism. Every day my social media news feed is filled with articles and content related to this topic so I figured we would change it up and discuss this buzz worthy term and explore its meaning and origins.

Former New Jersey paramedic Stephen Kavalkovich nearly died from a heroin overdose before finding recovery from drug addiction and mental illness. This journey led to his current role as host of Mental Health News Radio Network podcast Rescue the Rescuer. Rescue the Rescuer sheds light on the mental and emotional stresses faced by police officers, fire fighters, soldiers, EMS providers and other first responders, stresses which can lead to mental illnesses such as PTSD and addiction problems.

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Join Doug and Karen Monda as we discuss their story and the foundation they created, Survive First.Doug is the Founder of Survive First, Inc. and has a long standing history in law enforcement. He retired from law enforcement as an undercover narcotics agent with the Cocoa Police Department, a city in Brevard County, Florida in 2017. He began his career in public safety in 2001. In his second year of service, Doug joined the S.W.A.T. team, and subsequently attended Marine Scout Sniper Training, earning his certification with Blackwater. He spent 15 years on the Cocoa Police Department S.W.A.T. team. During his service on S.W.A.T., his experience as a sniper and team leader played a critical role in the safety of teammates and success of countless missions. During his career he has also worked with agencies consisting of D.E.A., F.B.I., ATF, Border Patrol, U.S. Marshalls Office, Department of Homeland Security and NASA.
Doug’s training has earned him extraordinary success in the field. Recently, he was named 2016 Officer of the Year. Additionally, throughout his career, he earned many other awards for his hard work and dedication to the City of Cocoa.

In 2013, Doug’s own mental health became impacted from his long career in law enforcement. His own experience with treatment for PTSD, depression, and attempted suicide was the catalyst that drove the founding of Survive First Foundation. Doug is now a national keynote speaker. He speaks on the impacts of a first responders job on mental health and family. His mission is to spread awareness of PTSD, depression, and suicide in first responders, hoping to break the stigma, so that help may be received before it is too late.
In his spare time, Doug enjoys spending time with his family, surfing and competing in the sport of triathlon. he has competed in the national and world championships and is a four-time Ironman triathlon finisher. Doug was a former professional soccer player and coached several teams for the YMCA, as well as youth and high school soccer teams. He currently serves as a board member for the YMCA of Cocoa and chairs their Youth Scholarship Fund.

As a member of the Board of Directors for Survive First, Doug helps set the strategic goals and objectives for the foundation.Karen is the wife of Survive First Foundation’s founder, Douglas Monda, and a proud step mother of five. She received both her Master of Arts degree and Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Communicative Disorders, from the University of Central Florida. Karen has a long history of fundraising for national and global non-profit organizations, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The Florida Wildlife Hospital, the Humane Society of the United Stated, and the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. She has a long-standing passion for helping others in need and currently co-chairs the YMCA of Cocoa Youth Scholarship Fund.

Karen’s personal experience as a law enforcement spouse, who has fought alongside her husband to win the battle over depression, PTSD, and attempted suicide, has been the drive behind her passion for Survive First Foundation and ensuring that all first responders and their families receive the support and treatment they need when mental health becomes a daily struggle.
In her spare time, Karen enjoys spending time on the beach with her family. She maintains a healthy lifestyle by running. Karen enjoys running the marathon distance, and has been honored to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. She believes in physical fitness as a catalyst for a healthy and happy life and encourages people to find a physical activity they can enjoy.
Karen oversees all communications and media content for Survive First Foundation. She also coordinates and plans fundraising events and drives for the foundation. As a member of the Board of Directors, Karen helps set the strategic goals and objectives for the foundation.

Join Zak Williams, the son of the late Robin Williams, and host Stephen Kavalkovich on Rescue the Rescuer as they discuss some tough topics. They talked about Zak’s journey with having a famous father, the tragic loss of his father to suicide, and his life after such a loss. Zak is compassionate and sweet soul. The advice he gives to suicide survivors is priceless and needed.

Zak could have taken many different career paths especially with is access to the entertainment world because of his late father, Robin Williams. Instead he is is focused on making a positive difference in the world by bringing financial literacy education to at-risk communities. The 32-year-old San Franciscan, who holds an MBA from Columbia University, is currently focused on society’s least privileged people: prisoners. Williams co-teaches a weekly class to incarcerated individuals at San Quentin State Prison.

To learn more about Zak please visit him here.

Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative (MOBI) is a series of curated social connectivity events for Black gay and queer men to see their holistic self while promoting community, wellness, and personal development. MOBItalks, a personal and professional development series for Black gay men. MOBIfest, is an interactive arts experience that celebrates Black Queer voices in fashion, music, visual arts and media. With a focus on wellness, MOBI connects individuals to opportunities to better themselves before and during the event.

Join Dr. Kevin Blankenship, the subject of the hot Netflix Documentary Recovery Boys, as we discuss the unique recovery program he created called Jacob’s Ladder. evin Blankenship, MD
Founder & Medical Director
​The son of a coal miner, Kevin grew up in a small town in southern West Virginia. After graduating from high school, Kevin joined the U.S. Army to serve his country. After military service, Dr. Blankenship earned degrees in pharmacy and medicine and went on to complete his emergency medicine residency at West Virginia University. He became board certified in emergency medicine and worked in numerous medical settings throughout West Virginia.

In 2014 an immediate family crisis with addiction brought Kevin face-to-face with the significant issue of this growing epidemic and the lack of recovery options throughout our country. Inspired by this experience, Dr. Blankenship has dedicated himself professionally to being part of the solution through directly serving the recovery industry and indirectly combating the stigma surrounding this issue in today’s society. This dedication is what has become Jacob’s Ladder.

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