Burden of Duty Podcast
Producing The Burden of Duty has been one of the most difficult and meaningful things I have ever done, but the job is far from finished.
All six episodes can be found here - read here
First Responders and Medical Workers are exposed to extraordinary trauma and human suffering on a regular basis. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a peer-reviewed paper in which the researchers estimate that roughly 30% are living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and roughly 15% of those pose a serious risk to themselves and potentially, to others. For instance, approximately 100 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2022 but somewhere between 300 and 400 took their own lives. At least four of those were from Houston. During production, at least one Houston Police Officer and one Houston Sheriff's Deputy took their own lives. (On a personal note, my dear friend Bobby Nouzovsky lost his battle with PTSD on March 19th, 2023; 20 years to the day that we invaded Iraq together.) Of the six Houston law enforcement officers that have taken their own lives in the last 18 months, none of them called for, or sought out, help. 911 won't call 911.
Stigma and finance are the two biggest barriers between our first responders and the help they need. I envision an institution that provides all of the services and support that the Veteran Crisis Line provides but for our first responders. These people serve our country the same as our military and we have a responsibility to care for the injuries they receive on our behalf. I think a wonderful motto could be "You serve and protect us. It's our duty to serve and protect you, your rights and your privacy." It is impossible to overstate the importance of privacy and proximity. All of the money and resources in the world will do little good if we can't get the first responders to utilize them.
Dr. Lorna Breen was a doctor and director of emergency services in New York at the height of the pandemic. She took her own life in 2020. In 2022, The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act was passed with bipartisan support, allocating millions to mental health for medical workers. A group of people just like us is the only reason that the law got passed. There is no reason we can't achieve the same thing for first responders in Houston. To that end, good intentions don't get the job done, good leaders do. While I'm confident in many of my abilities, business administration and politics are not part of my current skill set. I am more of a blunt instrument, doing this job right is going to require a tool with more precision. I am not aware of someone better than Tim Stroud and I hope he will consider a leadership role, if not the head leadership role.
As of right now, we have the support of the President of the Houston Police Officers Union, Doug Griffith, Director of the Houston Fire Fighters Association, Gabe Dominguez, the Director of the First Responder Program at UH Psychology, Dr. Anka Vujanovic and many more. I believe in my heart that if we get organized, come up with a good plan, and then approach the lawmakers together, we can get significant funding and save many lives. The Vietnam Veterans did it for people like Tim and myself, now I want our generation of Veterans to do the same for our First Responders. They need and deserve our support.
Joseph Mery, USMC, ret., OIF I & OIF II-II