First Responder Peer Support
with Jonathan Lang

About the Episode

Date: July 19, 2021

Episode 10: First Responder Peer Support with Jonathan Lang


First Responder Peer support is informed mental health and substance abuse assistance provided by trained, certified peers who also work (or have worked) as first responders. They provide emotional support, awareness, guidance, suggestions, resources and an empathetic ear to help guide an individual to recovery. The program is confidential and members are able to seek out peer members on their own terms and in a comfortable environment.

Public health and public safety workers experience a broad range of health and mental health consequences as a result of work-related exposures to natural or human-caused disasters. First responders involved in these occupations are exposed to hazards inherent in the nature of their jobs.

Examples include exposure (direct or indirect) to death, grief, injury, pain, or loss as well as direct exposure to threats to personal safety, long hours of work, frequent shifts and longer shift hours, poor sleep, physical hardships, and other negative experiences.

Jonathan Lang is a proud husband and father of two living in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has been in recovery for the past 6 years from alcohol and drugs and is passionate about helping others along their journey to recovery. He is a firm believer that if he can do it then anyone is able to achieve long term recovery.

Jonathan has served for 18 years as a Firefighter/EMT at Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services, Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, and Forward Operating Base Camp Bucca, Iraq. Motivated by the tragic loss of a coworker and his own struggles with substance use disorder and mental illness, Jonathan has successfully founded and developed the country’s first federal peer-support program for first responders at a U.S. Army installation. He is also a member for the International Association of Firefighters Behavioral Health Committee representing the 16th district in breaking the stigma and making a change in how the fire service responds to their own in regards to behavioral health and substance use disorder. Jonathan also works part time in the evenings for the AliveRVA program in Richmond Virginia as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist, answering the Warm Line. He has also founded and created the organization Hope for Emergency Responders Organization (H.E.R.O.) that provides funding, a scholarship for teens going into college who have lost a first responder loved one to suicide or overdose as well as a First Responder Warm Line staffed by fellow first responder peer support specialists.

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