Local non-profit fights to help first responders

Published 9:00 am Friday, February 9, 2024

First founded in the fall of last year, Mend The Line is a non-profit organization based in Danville that strives to increase awareness about mental health issues that first responders face.

“I am a therapist and started seeing first responders a few years ago,” said Mend The Line co-founder Sonya Kirkpatrick. “It was brought to our attention that there were a lot of first responders in the area that could benefit from mental health therapy and could benefit from education.”

Kirkpatrick is a first responder herself, having served as a paramedic. Her husband, Ryan Kirkpatrick has served as a police officer and is a board member for Mend The Line. She believes that understanding the culture among first responders is key to providing them with mental health support.

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“We are in the first responder culture,” Kirkpatrick said. “It is a unique culture and being a culturally competent provider is very important for first responders to reach out for help.”

Mend the Line secretary Mike McCurdy is a firefighter and explained that one of the main obstacles the organization faces is barriers stopping responders from reaching out for help.

“The biggest thing we have identified is the resistance to finding help,” McCurdy said. “That is part of the reason that we founded Mend the Line. Not only do we have clinicians involved but we have peers of firefighters, police, dispatchers, and other first responders. We can start to bridge the gap between first responders and their health. It is really about fighting the stigma and dissolving the barriers that people have about reaching out.”

In addition to creating a network to help first responders find resources for their mental health, they provide education on how mental health professionals understand the culture and challenges of first responders. Mend The Line believes that supporting the families of first responders is vital.

“With first responders, there is a lot of impact that it has on families with long hours, the trauma the first responder sees and how it changes the family dynamic,” Kirkpatrick said. “There is a very high rate of divorce in the first responder community, and we are trying to bring awareness to that and bridge that gap.”

Mend The Line has provided services in Boyle County and several other counties throughout the region. Their services are available state-wide. Being a new non-profit, Mend The Line is looking for donations to support their cause. A fall fundraiser, the “Heroes Halloween Bash” is scheduled for October. In addition to cash donations, Mend The Line is looking for potential volunteers as their organization grows.

For more information, visit the Mend The Line Facebook page. They are currently developing a website expected to launch by the end of February.