What is FST5?
Frontline Strong Together (FST5) was formed in 2021 to respond to the growing need for first responders experiencing mental health crises and the lack of support services available. The “5” in FST5 alludes to the five disciplines their program supports – police, fire, emergency services, dispatchers, corrections, and their families. With statistics showing that depression and PTSD are up to 5 times more common in first responders, this program helps address the stress that first responders are experiencing and get them the help they need.
FST5 Comes to Life
The FST5 program is funded by a grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and enacted in collaboration with the following first responder organizations:
- Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM)
- Fraternal Order of Police
- Michigan Fire Fighters Union
- The Wayne State University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences
- Dr. Kenneth Wolf, Ph.D., the Director of POAM’s Member Lifeline program
Together, Wayne State University and representatives of the first responder disciplines worked to see this program come to life. The first responder representatives advocated for peer support to easily and confidentially assist first responders who sought help to ensure comfort and the best quality of care. Peer support counselors are essential to this program as they actively reduce the stigma surrounding first responders seeking help and have first-hand experience within this field.
First Responder Peer Support
Callers are matched with peer counselors well-versed in resources and strategies to address their needs and concerns. With training provided by Wayne State University, community members and first responder peers are trained to help individuals to offer the best quality of help. The peers are trained to address work-related stress and trauma among first responders and their families with innovative, customized, and comprehensive services. The resources and assistance that the peer counselors can offer first responders include de-escalating tactics and mental health, including alcohol and substance use, when and where to get help, resources for mental health treatment, and coping mechanisms for stress and trauma.
POAM Supports FST5
From the beginning, POAM played a significant role in creating this program. With more and more members struggling from long-standing critical incident stress, the POAM executive board members saw firsthand how it affected its members and their families. With current services for members offering inadequate resources and a lack of deep understanding of the traumas they face, President Tignanelli and Secretary Pignataro began working with FST5. Their goal was to add to and improve upon resources available to first responders created by first responders. President Tignanelli was able to advocate for the exact resources and assistance members needed and help steer the program to where it is today.
Through advocacy and collaboration with fellow members of the first responder discipline, the program can appropriately fill the gap of needed trauma resources for first responders.
Free, Confidential Help for First Responders
FST5 has resources available to first responders and their families for all of Michigan’s 83 counties, including 24-hour live support. Resources are available via telehealth or online. For in-person assistance, a registry of mental health providers is available. Services that FST5 helps first responders receive include assessments, cognitive behavior therapy, medication management, and outpatient therapy for mental health.
To learn more about the program and its resources, visit them online. If you want to stay updated on upcoming peer training, webinars, and FST5 happenings, subscribe to their newsletter.
POAM encourages its members and their families to utilize this secure and anonymous resource if they or a loved one is struggling with the effects of critical incident stress or other issues that have impacted their work or home life. Seeking help and intervention for first responder issues can seem daunting, but experienced peers are waiting to help you and want to help improve your mental and emotional health.
For those interested in joining the network of peer support counselors, look for updates on upcoming FST5 training sessions.