LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — When Aaron Rupp, a firefighter for the Clark County Fire Department, responded to a call on Oct. 1st, 2107, he did not realize he would be stepping into Las Vegas' most deadly mass shooting.
“I didn’t think I was going into that. I thought I was showing up where a couple was shot. So we got the call and came cruising in and looking for an officer, and we were met with a wave of people," Rupp said.
But for Rupp and other first responders, responding to these calls comes with some mental preparation.
“I’ll usually just play the worst-case scenario game. So we’ll get a call for a drowning or choking or a burn victim or whatever it is, and I’ll play the worst-case scenario game in my head, so I’m already emotionally processed dealing with a dead baby or the smells of a burnt person," Rupp said.
With the help of The Las Vegas String Resiliency Center, first responders who run towards danger instead of away from it now have a place where they can receive support and the mental health resources they need.
“I think it’s just important for first responders to know that first of all they are appreciated. And that we want them to take care of themselves because they spend so much time taking care of us," Tiffany Oba, Responder Wellness Coordinator for the Las Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, said.
The pandemic has also exacerbated mental health issues for first responders.
Rupp says at times when responding to calls he is forced to suck it up, but sometimes that's not enough.
“And so you just find things that bring you joy and help separate that from what the work-life is, and sometimes you don’t have the opportunity, and you just suck it up,” Rupp said.
The Resiliency center held its first appreciation event for first responders at the Las Vegas Metro Police Department Headquarters and plan to have one every month.
“Realizing that there are other options besides sucking it up and hiding it, is a lot of the most important first steps to total health," Rupp said.
For more information on the Las Vegas Strong Resiliency Center's Responder Wellness program, you can visit their website.