Mental Health Awareness Course Offered to Local First Responders

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — In 2007, a furniture store in Charleston, South Carolina, caught fire. In responding to the incident, nine firefighters lost their lives in what was the deadliest firefighter disaster since 9/11.

Marine veteran Travis Howze was one of the firefighters who responded to the blaze, and the event changed him.

“You’re having nightmares that are so bad — this is my case I’m talking about — where I would have to get physically, I would have to get drunk just in order to go to sleep at night, and so I would come into work intoxicated, and I’m not proud of that, but it’s something that needs to be said,” said Howze.

Now, he’s dedicated himself to helping other first responders, such as the firefighters at the Chattanooga fire Department, offering a resource that wasn’t available to him 15 years ago.

“The problem with being a first responder — we’re always there to help everybody else, but we don’t know how to help ourselves when it actually comes time to help ourselves,” he said.

According to Howze, mental health struggles have led to a high divorce rate among first responders.

“The divorce rate is super high in our business. It’s like 80 percent, and a lot of people think the divorce rate is because of the schedule we carry, but it’s actually not; it’s because of a lot of the things we go through and how these professions change us over the years,” he added.

He says it’s also related to suicide.

“Suicide it at an all-time high in the emergency services. It’s through the roof,” he said.

His classes and speeches go over these issues, pointing to resources for responders who may be suffering.

Travis will be offering his courses twice a day, every day, from April 4 through 8, and again April 18 through 22.

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Hamilton County, Health, Local News