By Sharon Chin

SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — A retired North Bay paramedic is helping other medics manage their work-related post-traumatic stress through a non-profit group she founded.

Officers who respond to emergencies from fires to protests can literally bring their work home.

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Former paramedic Susan Farren says that stress built up over time can haunt them in forms like depression, stroke, even suicidal thoughts.

“So often, we’re trained on how to protect buildings and lives, but we’re not trained to take care of ourselves,” Farren said.

So she founded First Responder Resiliency, Inc. in Santa Rosa in 2018. The nonprofit has held 50 conferences and taught more than 4,000 emergency officers nationwide on how to prepare for trauma before it happens.

“You can’t run a fatal car crash, a cardiac arrest, a felony stop and a fire and not expect that your body and your nervous system are not going to be impacted,” Farren said.

Cal Fire Division Chief Rob Wheatley learned his chronic state of “fight or flight” affected his home life. Using diet, exercise, meditation, mindfulness, and yoga he’s learned to calm down his nervous system.

“Those are scars but it doesn’t need to be a wound you carry around, getting worse and worse,” said Wheatley. “You can actually do something,” Wheatley said.

Farren’s training is now part of the Cal Fire academy’s curriculum.

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“We’re seeing a change where people are willing to talk about what’s going on. And not just the ol’ ‘Suck it up, buttercup,'” Wheatley said.

Santa Rosa Police Chief Rainer Navarro says Farren has equipped his 250-member department with tools to alleviate stress and sleep deprivation.

“She’s very genuine and she has the heart,” Navarro said. “She just cares. That’s what sets her apart.”

Farren gets emotional knowing she’s making a difference. A cancer survivor, she sold her home three years ago for seed money to start First Responder Resiliency.

And now, she is starting to raise money to build a First Responder Resiliency Center in Sonoma County for training and therapy.

“It is overwhelming to realize that out of my own tragedy, something beautiful has come out of that,” Farren said.

 

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