By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – A recent poll shows nearly half of adults in the U.S. report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health. While social distancing is designed to protect our physical health, it can put a strain on us emotionally. First responders feel it daily. Firefighters work and live together — that can make it even more difficult to cope in a COVID-19 world.

At Denver Fire Station Number 1, it is no longer firefighting as usual.

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“Everything has changed, just like it has for everyone else,” explained Lt. Kurt Buhler with the Denver Fire Department.

Buhler explained the day starts with a temperature check and a series of health questions. COVID-19 comes first.

“We want to keep fellow firefighters safe, we want to keep our families safe,” Buhler told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

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Crew members wear masks. They practice social distancing. In the tight bunk room, each shift of three spreads out.

They use hand sanitizer and carry disinfectant stronger than bleach and P-100 masks.

“Filters out 100% of particles instead of 95%,” said Buhler.

On high risk medical calls they wear all of the protective equipment. And when things get stressful…

“Being able to sit around the kitchen table in the firehouse, a lot of problems get worked out,” Buhler said.

“The most important thing that I see is staying connected,” said psychologist Dr. Glenn Most, Executive Director of West Pines Behavioral Health and spokesman for Let’s Talk Colorado.

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It is a campaign to get people talking openly about mental health challenges in relation to the pandemic. It includes ways to deal with stress and offers resources.

“A lot of people hold it in,” said Most.

The advice from experts for everyone during the coronavirus crisis includes take care of yourself, communicate and don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

LINK: Let’s Talk Colorado Campaign

More resources:

Colorado Crisis Services – (844) 493-8255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line – text TALK to 741741

Kathy Walsh


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