GREAT FALLS — In the Missouri room at the Civic Center, first responders are spending the weekend learning about some of the stressors that they might encounter during their jobs - and they’re being taught by first responders who have been in similar situations that they have.
The Great Falls Police Department partnered with T-6 Advanced Training & Career Development Group; T-6 is a non-profit agency that helps first responders navigate job and life stressors.
The name comes from the police code 10-6, which means busy. They encourage first responders to stay busy during the day for 10 six-minute increments to help get through the day and to reduce stress, whether it’s turning on music or watching a video.
T-6 says suicide has become the leading cause of death in law enforcement officers and they want to examine different types of stress so first responders can know that there is a program wanting to help them if they need it.
T-6 president Brian Regan served as a sheriff for 15 years in Brevard County, Florida, and says this program wants to raise awareness and help reduce stigmas in law enforcement
“This is taught by first responders who have walked the walk, talked the talk. We teach why the body goes through the stressors it does in one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. The big thing is to not suffer in silence,” Regan said.
The T-6 training has several specific events including a family getaway and a camping trip they put on in Montana, and they carefully picked the location for it based on the state’s outdoorsy vibes.
“One of the cofounders moved up here and the scenery in Montana is unbelievable. It’s probably the most beautiful states I’ve ever been to. The mountains, the hiking, the ability to be in nature to be with yourself, to be alone and process all that, that’s important,” Regan said.
T-6 says having the uniqueness of using first responders to teach the programs helps with the overall class to make it more relatable.
Rich LaBard has been with the Great Falls Police Department since 2000 and said he learned a lot about the scientific background of what causes stress and wasn’t aware of some of it and is taking a lot of information with him back to the department.
“This kind of stuff is affecting all of our agencies. Stress is probably one of the most common debilitating factors of police work. They’ve got really good information about how to manage it and how to stay healthy,” LaBard said. “It’s definitely worthwhile training learning about this.”
The T-6 training will take place over the next couple weeks with sessions in Billings and Glendive coming up as well. A grant from the Gianforte Family Foundation made the program free for all first responders and their spouses at these sessions.