'Trauma is real and doesn't go away': Pa. conference targets first responders' stress

The conference will encourage first responders to manage compassion fatigue and practice self-care


By Patrick Buchnowski
The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Cambria County Sexual Assault Response Team is targeting the alarming rise of stress and trauma facing first responders.

The fourth annual SART Conference – Respond. React. Recover. – will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at Pitt-Johnstown's Living-Learning Center.

"When stress and trauma increase, we need to increase our capacity to manage our responses," said Erika Brosig, SART coordinator.

"It's essential to find new and creative ways to stay healthy and resilient within our fields."

The conference is for first responders and those in related fields.

Attendees also will pay tribute to West End Ambulance paramedic Janice Keen-Livingston and St. Clair police Officer Lloyd Reed Jr. of Hollsopple, who died last year.

"We're honoring two very special people killed in the line of duty," District Attorney Kelly Callihan said.

"They paid the ultimate sacrifice as public servants."

Ten speakers will tackle issues, including the mental-health stigma, the effects of trauma on victims and responders, compassion fatigue and self-care for first responders.

"We all deal with what they call cumulative stress," said Ira Hart, manager of West End Ambulance Service.

"We suppress our emotions and put them away and go on to the next call. The question is how long can we do that before something happens?

"A conference such as this is very important so we can understand how to deal with stress and reach out to others who can help us," he said.

"The trauma is real and doesn't go away," Nanty Glo police Capt. Vicki Walker said.

"We're use to helping others and we don't know how to help ourselves.

"We need to listen to others and go to the resources that are there for us."

Keynote speaker for the conference will be former NHL goaltender and coach Clint Malarchuk. Malarchuk is a mental-health advocate and motivational speaker.

A pre-conference reception and book signing with Malarchuk will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 9 at Sunnehanna Country Club, 1000 Sunnehanna Drive in Westmont. Tickets are $75.

An on-ice skate will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 9 at North Central Recreation Center in Ebensburg.

Attendees can win prizes, including a chance to take a shot on goal at Malarchuk, and Steelers vs. Cowboys tickets. Raffle tickets are $5 each or three for $10. Tickets are available by contacting Victim Services Inc., VetAdvisor or SART committee members. Winners will be drawn and contacted one week prior to the event.

Both events are open to the public.

Copyright 2016 The Tribune-Democrat

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