Sarah Devore has been a firefighter in Treasure Valley for 20 years. Until recently, she said, mental health stigma prevented her from seeking help.
Nampa, Idaho –
Reportedly, first responders are five times more likely to have depression and PTSD Study by Kaiser Permanente. The researchers said it was due to exposure to often traumatic events and life-threatening situations.
One of the Nampa firefighters knows this struggle all too well.
After 20 years of fighting fires in Treasure Valley, Sarah Devore of the Nampa Fire Department will put on her gear for the last time Friday afternoon. She trades in firefighting by spending more time with her family.
“I love being a firefighter and I love riding that engine, but I love being home with my kids too,” Devore said.
Defur began her career in firefighting at the age of 19 in the Star Fire District.
“They saw an ambitious 19-year-old, and they said, ‘Come on board, we’ll teach you all about firefighting,'” said Devore, “and soon I got hooked.”
After a year with Star Fire, she joined Eagle Fire and worked with their team for three years.
Then she found her home with the Nampa Fire Department, where she was able to make a difference in this community for 16 years.
DeFur said the original plan was to stop after she had children. Now, after five kids, she’s finally ready to call her own.
“And when our fifth child came, it was, ‘Let’s take you home,'” said Devore.
While she became a full-time mom, and staying home was a huge factor in her decision to retire at age 40, she said mental barriers played a role, too.
“My heart is tired, my mind is tired, and I want to go home,” Devore said.
Nine years ago, Devore and her husband lost their four-year-old daughter Alison in a car accident in July 2013.
Devore said, “I didn’t think I’d ever go back to work, but I did. I just skipped and it was really, really, thank God. But mentally this was already starting to fill me up.”
It was her handling of other traumatic events and life-threatening situations that she witnessed as a first responder as well.
“In everyday life, a lot of times you get the job done, you just put it in the back of your head, and you move on,” DeFur said.
However, DeFur is beginning to notice that “just moving on” is starting to affect her life.
“It really starts to affect your sleep, eating, exercise, you name it,” DeFur said.
I started feeling better until I started seeing a counselor and talking.
“We’ve processed these things, and we’ve learned how to live through them,” Devore said.
As she prepares to leave the Nampa Fire team, DeFur is pleased to see more of these conversations being promoted throughout the department.
“It’s okay to talk about these things,” Devore said. “And guess what? Even when you talk about them, they don’t make you weak, they actually make you stronger.”
On Friday at 1 p.m., the Nampa Fire Department will hold Devore’s retirement ceremony.
Devor During her retirement, she said she plans to work with her counselor, Dr. Kimberly Crawford, on mental health and education resources across Idaho.
Crawford travels around the gem country to provide pOlyvagal-based interventions for the prevention and resolution of trauma in first responders as a partnership with the Idaho Resilience Project.
DeFur hopes to share her story and encourage other first responders to get help.
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