Beneath The Vest: First Responder Mental Health - OC87 Recovery Diaries

A Must-See For First Responder Mental Health Training

Stirring stories of real first responders who have struggled with mental health challenges and came out on the other side.

These brave men and women demonstrate that seeking help is a strength, not a weakness, and that hope and recovery are possible.

Make a pay what you can donation for a DVD or digital download of these eight short films:

Who are these films for?

Town, city, state, police departments
Sheriff’s offices
Federal law enforcement agencies: CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, US Postal Police, Border Patrol/Customs, US Park Police, Amtrak Police Department, US Capitol Police/Secret Service
Corrections officers
Emergency Medical Technicians/Paramedics/Pre-Hospital Registered Nurses (PHRNs), Flight Medics (Municipal, non-profit, transport companies)
EMS/Fire/Police training academies
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) mental health training programs
Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Teams
Fraternal Order of Police Lodges
Police/Fire/EMS Chaplaincy programs
Peer Support counselors

“This helps me see police officers as human beings.”

First Responder Mental Health Short Films

// A police officer shot during a domestic violence call who struggles with the aftermath of that situation. //

// A dispatcher who talks openly about what it’s like to talk to everyone “on the worst day of their lives.” //

// An officer who thought about “taking myself out” after losing his wife and children due to his alcoholism. //

// And more. //

“As an officer, I find these videos really well put together.”

Why these films?


In 2016, 2017, and 2018, more first responders killed themselves than died in murders or on-duty accidents.

Anxiety, depression, complex PTSD, repeated exposure to trauma, relationship issues, substance abuse are all problems endemic to first responder culture, which sometimes perpetuates a stigma against seeking help.


“I enjoyed the video because it highlights how PTSD is common in police officers and that they need to take care of their mental health to perform well on the job and have a healthy personal life. I wanted to use it for my educational video for officers because the interviewee was an experienced officer that shared his personal experience. I think it can help to reduce the stigma towards mental health by showing that PTSD is common and taking care of your mental health is both an important and normal part of life.”

The Storytellers


Rob Davis, Police Officer
Ed Pila, Police Officer (Ret.)
Craig Tinneny, Dispatcher
Joseph Peterson, Police Officer
Michelle Monzo, Instructor
Ron Griffith, Police Officer (Ret.)
Ian Stoddart, Paramedic
Ashley Neubauer, Paramedic/Firefighter


The full run-time of all the short films together, plus the brief trailer, is about 46 minutes.

“I found this video about a year ago and never forgot it. As a first responder, we get a lot of credit and praise. As much as we appreciate the accolades, we also receive specific traumas that will always be a part of us. A certain group that is exposed to that same trauma are our amazing emergency telecommunicators (dispatchers). Unfortunately, they are sometimes forgotten by some, but without them, we cannot complete our task. In a way, I think their trauma can be worse because their brains translate the story that is usually the worst case scenario. They don’t get to see that “it wasn’t that bad”. They rarely get to obtain closure.

So this year, for safety standown, I wanted to take some time to focus on them. Behavioral Health is a topic that is finally becoming an “acceptable” topic in the fire service but I do not want to ever forget them. Behavioral Health for ALL. The video featuring Craig was very real and raw. He spoke about the good, the bad and the ugly and that kind of honest is what we need. That kind of honesty is what people will respond to. In short, that is why I chose this amazing video.

I thank you for what you all do in spreading the word.”

— Claudia Fernandez, Lieutenant/Paramedic, Behavioral Health Coordinator

OC87 Recovery Diaries exists to tell stories about how people with mental health challenges have created paths to meaningful lives. We feature stories that inspire and empower, stories that generate discussion and awareness.

OC87 Recovery Diaries presents a range of experiences— personal perspectives, recovery innovations, examples of empowerment, strengths and gaps in the mental health system, and efforts to dismantle stigma—all told by people moving through their own recovery journeys.

Learn more about OC87 Recovery Diaries »