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Your Best Life: Helping first responders cope with stress

National First Responders Day is Oct. 28. The Code 9 Project is a national non-profit providing training and education to prevent PTSD and suicide.

TEMPLE, Texas — Brandielee Baker is a former first responder and multiple trauma survivor who lost a close family member in 2010. The family member was a combat military veteran and law enforcement officer. 

"He had PTSD. At that time it was extremely stigmatic to speak about it, expose it. And, um, you know that just wasn't okay for me,” Baker said.

It inspired her to help found The Code 9 Project. It's a national nonprofit that provides education, training and resources to prevent PTSD and suicide in first responders, law enforcement, veterans and their families. 

They also offer crisis intervention and support for departments across the country along with chaplains, peer support specialists, even peer support dogs.

"They come to us in our darkest hours. We may have one- to- three critical incidents in our lifetime. First responders have one to 10 critical incidents, a day. When you do that math, and you think about the magnitude of just one crisis in your life it helps us bridge the gap, and really connect as human beings to the fact that we're asking human beings to do a lot, a lot," Baker said.

Baker says things have gotten even tougher during the pandemic. 

"They're stepping fully into severe suffering and death on a daily basis, and no human being can withstain, or sustain, their mental health being exposed to this day after day and having their own lives compromised because of it," he said.

These groups get a lot of training through their careers, but Baker says learning to cope with stress is often neglected. So, they offer many tools to help, like five-minute meditations you can find on Apple Music, Amazon and Google Play. 

According to Baker, "It was very important to me to introduce meditation, in a way that is approachable, relatable and soothing to the nervous system instead of eliciting more overstimulation. They're guided, so they don't have to think they can listen to a voice, and just follow along."

Baker says it's all to help these men and women begin their journey back to balance. She says if you're struggling, please reach out. 

"It doesn't mean you're weak, it doesn't mean that you're failing, it means that you're a human being," she said. "...and your nervous system is tired, and please reach out, please reach out your life matters, it matters to us, and we want to assist you in realizing how important it matters to you too."

If you’d like to donate to help The Code 9 Project’s mission, visit their website. If you’re a frontline worker, first responder or veteran who needs help, call their national helpline at 844-HOPE-247.