This week we hear from Symposium Speaker Andy Perry:
Tell our readers a little bit about your own journey
My name is Andy Perry. I entered the fire service in 1991 as a volunteer firefighter in Marquette Heights, IL. In 1993 I was hired by the City of Peoria, IL as a full time paid firefighter, where I still work as a Captain in suppression. In 1998 I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of a fire that left me separated from my crew in the attic of a three-story multi-dwelling fire. A flashover occurred on the main level and I was running low on air, the hose line I was manning had burned in half, and I had no means to radio for help. I was ultimately led to safety by my Captain who had reentered the structure and directed me to a porch roof on the second floor. For a better part of a year following this incident, I struggled mightily with depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress. In the time since, my symptoms have improved, but finding appropriate help was difficult. Resources were not as readily available as they are today, and the stigma of weakness was much greater then as well. Becoming a part of the Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Team (ILFFPS) opened my eyes to an ocean of help. I discovered for the first time that I was not alone in the way I felt, I learned of many available resources for assistance, and I experienced the power of a conversation with my peers.
Give us a short summary about the topic you will be presenting at the symposium
At the symposium I will be making a presentation on how to construct a peer support team. Topics discussed will include common barriers that other groups have run into in their attempts at creating similar groups. Legal, confidentiality, and logistical aspects will be discussed at length. An emphasis on how to maintain a team once its off and running will be addressed as well.
Participants in this session should be able to take away a general idea of how ILFFPS began and be provided with avenues to gain information on how to create their own team if they so desire. For those in attendance that do not wish to start a team, the plentiful information presented will reinforce the value of the many outlets of assistance currently available to firefighters and paramedics in Illinois and throughout the country.
I look forward to meeting you in Oak Brook Il in March.