The first ever Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Symposium is now one for the history books. As a team member and an attendee, I offer you my observations and experiences.
From the opening keynote address by Tom Howard, I could feel the positive energy rise in the room as he promised we would leave with practical solutions that could be implemented as both self-care strategies, and knowledge to be shared with our peers back home. Tom- by my own personal experience, you succeeded in this mission. A job well done to you and everyone behind the scenes who made this happen.
The common theme of this 2-day symposium was about self-care. Often times, those whom are employed in the helping fields (first responders and peer support team members for the purpose of this discussion), become so immersed in assisting others in need, that the ability to take the time to (as Chris Marella said) ” just chill out” falls by the wayside. Chilling out will be a unique definition for each individual, but I am highly confident that the information shared on Thursday and Friday has provided a framework to do so. To be the most highly functioning version of ourselves, we must pause and be mindful to the areas of our mind, body, and spirit that we frequently neglect: sleep, nutrition, exercise, and the nurturing of interpersonal relationships with our peers, family members, and our individual self.
There were so many incredible speakers whose presentations I wanted to attend, but was limited on each day. However, this “good problem” (to quote Tom Howard) had an excellent remedy. Prior to the afternoon breakout sessions on each day, a panel was assembled where all presenters participated in a Q and A discussion on the following topics: Our Lives are not Singular (day 1), and Post-traumatic Growth (day 2).
It was awesome to see how an instant rapport was created among a group of people that included both meaningful discussion and playful banter. During these panel sessions, each presenter shared enough of the most authentic version of his/her self so that even if I could not attend their breakout session, it inspired me to reach out and connect with them to learn more about what they are doing to make this world a better place to live.
Personally, I call this first symposium a resounding success as I received what I was looking for in the arena of personal growth. I hope that all who attended were equally as enriched. We would love to hear your feedback, so please post to our Facebook page or email Tom at : firstname.lastname@example.org as I am sure he would greatly appreciate it. I leave you with a few images (courtesy of our FB page) from this great 2- day conversation. Until next time –
Be well and take care,