Chicago (CBS) — They’re the first to arrive at shootings, fires and crashes. Police officers, firefighters and paramedics save lives first before taking time to process what they’ve experienced.
Erasing the Distance is a nonprofit that uses the power of performance to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues and to promote healing.
The group’s latest showcase is called “First Responders” and explores the mental health experiences of firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement.
Heather Bodie is the artistic director of Erasing the Distance and the director of “First Responders”. She said the organization started in 2005 to focus on harnessing the power of personal narrative to promote healing.
Bodie worked with Brian Warner, a former CPD officer and former chairman of Chicago Police Survivors, to develop the screenplay for “First Responders”. She said listening to Warner’s story had a profound impact on her.
“I, to be honest, hadn’t really given a whole lot of thought to those folks that are serving us in such a crucial way everyday and the intimacy of horrific experiences they have,” Bodie said. “It’s totally changed the way I walk down street when I encounter folks who are first responders.”
Warner, who was a police officer for almost two decades, said he hopes his story serves as a representation of the issues other first responders face.
“We’re human beings who go out and do a difficult job each and every day,” Warner said. “There’s a lot of us suffering in silence and we’re going to try to convey that message that there’s hope that if we address these issues we won’t have the suicide rate that unfortunately we’ve been experiencing most recently in Chicago.”
“First Responders” will be at Chicago Dramatists Nov. 12-14. Tickets are $10 to $20 and can be purchased here.