The East Central Indiana Critical Incident Stress Management Team supports first responders who struggle emotionally after a tragedy. (Photo: Supplied by ECI-CISM)
The East Central Indiana Critical Incident Stress Management Team supports first responders who struggle emotionally after a tragedy. (Photo: Supplied by ECI-CISM)
RICHMOND — First responders see horrific sights and experience gut-wrenching situations when performing their jobs.

Under old-school thinking, they would stifle their own emotions and try to build resistance. Now, however, there's help for area responders struggling to put aside those emotions.

The East Central Indiana Critical Incident Stress Management Team provides forums to address the emotions and helps responders — from dispatchers to those on scene to hospital staff— who might need assistance, including professional counseling. The team primarily serves Wayne, Fayette, Union, Henry and Rush counties but has also helped responders in Delaware and Franklin counties.

"We're on autopilot when we're doing what we're trained to do," said Fred Bunzendahl, who retired after 26 years with the Indiana State Police and now serves as the team's coordinator. "After the event is over and we come off autopilot, that's when we potentially have things come up or emotionally think about things."

The team is a completely volunteer organization composed mainly of past and present responders. For example, Lt. Andy Roberts is one of four Richmond Fire Department members to receive the necessary training to participate with the team. Assistant Chief John Pardo of Centerville Fire/Rescue also volunteers.

"We're not professionals, but people relate to me because I've been there on the scenes," said Roberts, who was honored as RFD's 2018 Firefighter of the Year partly because of his stress management efforts.

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