Illinois Fire Fighter Peer Support (ILFFPS), a 501(c)3, is proud to announce the joint endorsement of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois (AFFI) and the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association (IFCA).
ILFFPS was created in 2013 to assist firefighters and paramedics to cope with the many challenges they face each day – both on and off the job. The organization has created a trained network of peer supporters who are available to listen and assist – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ILFFPS is led by Co-Founder and Executive Director Matt Olson, a Lieutenant with the Bolingbrook Fire Department, Lead Peer Coordinator, Andy Perry; Captain with Peoria Fire Department, and Clinical Director Dr. Kristy McKiness, Ed.D,. L.C.P.C., A.C.S.
Bryan Doyle, IFCA President, says ILFFPS has provided Illinois firefighters and paramedics a valuable resource to deal with the stresses of the job in a productive manner. “In the past there was a stigma in our profession that prevent first responders from acknowledging that the trauma associated with helping others can have a profound effect on them and their families. Thanks to ILFFPS, firefighters and paramedics now have a positive outlet available to address issues as they arise.”
Over the past three years, hundreds of firefighters and paramedics have utilized ILFFPS, some as trained peer supporters and others as peers in need. At times it’s to decompress about the impact of an emergency response involving serious injuries or the death of a child. At other times it is simply to validate the unique impact our careers or volunteer efforts have on themselves and their families. The ability to discuss the emotional effects of these experiences with someone who has coped with similar experiences is invaluable and in many cases prevents the individual from using alternative coping mechanisms that can lead to destructive behavior.
“We’ve quickly learned that encouraging our brothers and sisters to discuss the issues they’re facing with a peer can prevent significant emotional wellness issues down the road,” said Matt Olson. “We know that a first responder who is physically and emotionally fit is better able to serve the citizens in communities across Illinois. I want to share with all firefighters, in Illinois and beyond, the power of a conversation.”
ILFFPS is available to assist all firefighters, paramedics and EMTs who believe they would benefit from talking to a peer supporter. For more information please watch our video, visit our website, find us on Facebook or call our hotline at (855) 90-SUPPORT.