Fire captain starts program to help colleagues with PTSD
Capt. Leslie Asbury teamed up with Battalion Chief Tim Spencer to help firefighters with stress after one of her colleagues attempted suicide
By FireRescue1 Staff
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A fire captain is working to help her colleagues with PTSD with a new behavioral health program.
My News 4 reported that South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue Captain Leslie Asbury noticed the stigma around PTSD after her first experience with trauma.
“My first traumatic car wreck, I was told, ‘If you can’t handle it, suck it up or get out,’” Capt. Asbury said.
“That’s been the culture for my whole career,” Battalion Chief Tim Spencer said. “The fire service has always been the macho, get over it, you know. Come back from a bad call, sit back down at the dinner table, and finish dinner.”
After Capt. Asbury noticed the department’s mishandling of a colleague’s attempted suicide, she knew she had to make a change.
“I want to erase that stigma and just make sure people reach out before it’s too late,” Capt. Asbury said.
She teamed up with Chief Spencer and created a behavioral health program to raise PTSD awareness with activities such as trauma-informed yoga.
Emily Winter, a trauma yoga instructor, said trauma yoga has been proven to improve PTSD symptoms by teaching trauma survivors how to be presently aware in the moment.
“We hope that individuals can feel more empowered to take some of their own healing into their own hands [and] to recognize when maybe they are starting to feel anxious or a little bit activated or triggered,” Winter said.
Capt. Asbury said she’s noticed a slow change in the fire culture since the behavioral health program was created.
“They are starting to be a little bit more gentle,” she said. “The education is really starting to work.”