SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — First Responders from agencies across southwest Missouri are taking part in a multi-day mental health training. 

It’s being run by Warrior’s Rest, a nonprofit working with the Department of Public Safety. 

They travel to several parts of the state to provide these trainings. 

“This is a class for overall wellness. It does teach you how to be a good peer. It does teach you how to take care of yourself,” said instructor Dan Phillips. “It does teach you how to respond to critical incidents, both in groups or individually, but it also teaches you how to take care of yourself.” 

Phillips says the approach to mental health has changed over recent decades. 

“After 30 years in law enforcement, I can tell you when I came on, there was nothing like this. It was absolutely the Suck It Up program,” Phillips said. “There was nothing if you had a bad call, if you had a bad incident, if you had a bad day, it was either do your job or find something else to do.” 

The free training for first responders covers critical incident stress management and works on peer-to-peer support. Phillips said he wishes he had this kind of support when he was in law enforcement. 

“Compartmentalizing trauma and stress when it needs to be processed will cause numerous other problems in your life,” Phillips said. “In my own career, I had several critical incidents. I lost friends in the line of duty. I was involved in several shootings. I was a first responder at 9/11. All of those things took me to a place of where I was broken as a human.’ 

Cathy Bustos, another instructor said mental health awareness can help reduce a disturbing statistic surrounding first responders.  

“It’s absolutely essential that we have to monitor our stress,” Bustos said. “The suicide rate among first responders is double that of line of duty death, which means we are killing ourselves at a much higher rate than others are killing us.” 

Bustos arrived in Springfield this week after spending time in Uvalde, Texas after the mass shooting in May.  

“The first responders were devastated by what happened, and everybody was just trying to gain their sense of footing on the ground,” Bustos said. 

Phillips said if first responders have a proper peer-to-peer response within days after a traumatic incident, the symptoms of PTSD could be reduced by as much as 90%. 

Trainings will be held in Springfield in November and December of this year.