Retired Ridgefield Firefighter’s Podcast Helps First Responders Improve Mental and Physical Health

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RIDGEFIELD — Several years ago, former Ridgefield firefighter David Dachinger had trouble sleeping, following some experiences he had on the job.

One particular call he remembered was being inside a building when it caught fire.

“There were elements to that call that troubled me for months,” said Dachinger, a resident of West Harrison, NY, who retired last year after 13 years as a firefighter. “It was really starting to interfere with the quality of everyday life and doing my job.”

He was able to get help through a form of psychotherapy called EMDR (eye movement, desensitization, desensitization, and reprocessing).

EMDR is just one of the topics Dachinger talks about in a weekly video podcast he co-created, titled Stakeholder resilience.

The podcast, which is free, airs every Wednesday at 7 p.m. on BBSRadio.com, YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Facebook. A new topic is covered in each 45-55 minute episode.

The podcast features expert guests sharing wellness insights and stories from first responders who have incorporated the experts’ strategies and advice into their lives.

Dachinger said he created the podcast out of concern for first responders, “who are experiencing an epidemic of duty-induced mental and physical health issues.”

Police and firefighters more likely to commit suicide than in the line of duty, says Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention. Additionally, EMS providers are approximately 1.4 times more likely to die by suicide than the public.

Topics have included: Best Sleep Practices, “Get Checked Now!”, “Toxic Exposures”, “Rescue Your Nutrition Practices”, “Fitness for Responders”, “The Reality of PTSD”, “When Children Die” , “Mutts Mending Mankind (Therapy Dogs)”, and peer support.

“Peer support is a hot topic in the first responder world,” Dachinger said. “It’s a system where if someone has a challenge, a problem, an ongoing issue, they can seek out someone who is more of a peer than a superior and talk about it.”

Another episode dealt with marriage and relationships.

“We had a married couple, a retired Seattle fire captain and his wife,” Dachinger said. “They wrote a book about firefighter marriage, so we had an episode about the challenges of being married to a firefighter from the spouse’s perspective and then from the firefighter’s perspective.”

To co-host the show, Dachinger partners with Stacy Raymond, a clinical psychologist with an office in Ridgefield; and Bonnie Rumilly, EMT, trauma therapist and licensed clinical social worker.

“We do a mix of local guests and national guests,” Dachinger said. “Some of our guests are from the NYPD (New York Police Department) and FDNY (New York City Fire Department).”

The show featured the chief of the Wilton Police Department, a fire captain from Ridgefield, and the deputy fire chief from Danbury.

There is no forbidden subject – recently a term known as institutional abandonment has come up.

“It’s when someone feels like their agency or department isn’t supporting them adequately. Very often it happens either with their mental health or in a situation that could be really difficult and challenging for them at work,” said Rumilly, who has an office in Wilton.

She said another term the podcast has talked about is called betrayal trauma, “where people aren’t there to support you when needed. These jobs are so tough. I mean, what first responders have to do on a daily basis is completely abnormal – making calls with child deaths or suicides. It’s a trauma all day, every day.

The entire work involving the podcast, which includes editing and adding commentary, takes 20-30 hours per week.

Birth of the podcast

Raymond and Rumilly are facilitators of a peer support group for first responders of which Dachinger is a member.

He said he was in awe of them both, from the moment he first met them.

“I saw that they both had this incredible chemistry and ability to connect with stakeholders, to talk about some of the challenges they were facing, and to do it in a very powerful way. At the same time , when things get too serious, they know how to keep lighting up,” Dachinger said. “As I watched the two of them do what they do, I thought to myself, I think we could create a podcast with the two of them and myself, and combine our experience and skills to talk about some of the fundamental issues that are faced by mental health and physical health workers.

Raymond and Rumilly volunteer with the Fairfield County Trauma Response Team – a nonprofit group that treats first responders for post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma.

The Fairfield County Response Team and other groups support the podcast. The initial start was around $6,000. The show is looking for sponsors.

Future plans

Dachinger said he hoped to syndicate the podcast.

“It’s on multiple platforms now, but we’d like to expand it to a place where we can release it to even more stakeholders, and continue to reach more people,” he said.

He added that many first responders are stigmatized when asking for help.

“There’s a whole mentality about making the call, sucking it up, moving on to the next call,” he said. “Sometimes these traumas accumulate and there is no possibility for someone to ask for help or sometimes it is uncomfortable for them to ask for help.”

Dachinger said he’s happy to be able to dedicate his time to the podcast because it’s about topics that are so close to his heart.

“I’ve had a wonderful career and been blessed to work at Ridgefield,” he said. “When you retire it can really leave a big void in your life if you don’t have something else that takes up a lot of your time, so this podcast was really the perfect blend of my love for video and the audio and stay connected with the world of first responders.

[email protected] 203-948-9802

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