The Guidance Center launched another exciting film project — this time partnering with the Los Angeles Area Regional Training Group (LAARTG), Los Angeles Area Fire Chief Association (LAAFCA) and Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD) to develop a series of web-based trainings on mental health for any local or state fire department or paramedic across the country to use.

On Wednesday, May 26th, The Guidance Center along with our first responder partners announced the Telly Award-winning national launch of the First Response Mental Health Training Video Series at a press conference at Long Beach Fire Station 1.

First Response Mental Health offers training that is pragmatic, concrete and direct, with the goal of assisting first responders with the tools to readily identify the signs of mental illness in the field and to safely and effectively de-escalate these encounters. Funded by a grant from The Ahmanson Foundation, the videos are available on The Guidance Center’s website at no cost to any interested fire department across the country.

“We have come to realize there is a real thirst and need for training around mental health and mental illness,” said Patricia Costales, Chief Executive Officer of The Guidance Center. “In order to ensure the safety of all parties involved, first responders need a basic understanding of how to interact with a child or adult who may be experiencing a mental crisis. That is why we worked so hard to produce these videos and make sure they accurately address the needs of firefighters and paramedics alike.”

This mental health training series was produced by combining The Guidance Center’s 75 years of mental health and trauma expertise with the reputable knowledge base from LAARTG, LAAFCA and LBFD and their mental health evaluation teams. The goal of the series is to provide a cost-effective, ongoing training program on mental health for firefighters and paramedics, without requiring departments to incur the typical expenses associated with one-day crisis intervention trainings.

“In the fire service, there is an expectation that firefighters will always be ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Regardless of the situation, firefighters are taught to push forward through adversity and focus on the mission. However, that approach needs to be adjusted based on the situation,” said Fire Chief Xavier Espino, Long Beach Fire Department. “We are dealing with increasing incidents involving patients that present with various symptoms associated with a mental health crisis. It is up to us to learn about these potential scenarios and look to professionals for guidance and direction as we develop tools that will assist us in de-escalation techniques.”

The scenario-based training series includes eight, 7-10-minute web-based videos. This series offers training that is pragmatic, direct and short enough to be shown between calls at the station. This format allows for the videos to be shown once a week as an 8-week training program, then regularly incorporated between calls on a reoccurring basis to reinforce knowledge and use of tools in the field.

“The fire service is proud to partner with The Guidance Center in providing training to Los Angeles area firefighters and paramedics to better prepare them for response to situations involving mental health illness,” said Eric Garcia, President, Los Angeles Area Fire Chiefs Association. “There are many elements to providing compassionate and competent care to individuals suffering from mental health crises. The eight training videos that have been developed address key areas that will better equip fire personnel to recognize when mental health illness is a possible factor during a response and assist them in initiating the appropriate approach to care.”

The First Response Mental Health Training Video Series stresses the importance of emergency personnel relying on their tactical training, while also providing an understanding of what people with mental illnesses are going through and tactics to safely de-escalate a mental health crisis situation.

The video series teaches practical skills to help first responders with a broad range of concerns. Topics covered include:

  • de-escalation and assessment of the mentally ill,
  • interfacing with the homeless mentally ill,
  • active suicide,
  • understanding Autism,
  • what to do when it’s a child,
  • limitations of psychiatric holds,
  • empathic notification, and
  • self-care

The First Response Mental Health Training Video Series for EMS professionals comes after the creation of a similar series of mental health training videos for law enforcement. In 2018, The Guidance Center, together with Long Beach and Los Angeles Police Departments, and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department launched the Roll Call Mental Health Training Video Series.

This training video Series is also a scenario-based training series that includes eight, 7-10-minute web-based videos. Each video is formatted to be easily shown during roll call before the officers go into the field. Since its launch, the Roll Call Mental Health Training Video Series has been viewed by more than 300 law enforcement agencies across the United States, Canada, Australia, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Additionally, both the Roll Call and First Response Mental Health Training Videos are Telly Award winners, which annually showcases the best work created within television and video for all screens. The First Response Mental Health Training Videos received two Gold Awards in the category of Social Video General – Instructional for the entire series and episode seven, “Empathic Notification,” and two Silver Awards in the category of Social Video Series-Series: Social Impact for the entire series and episode seven, “Empathic Notification.” The Roll Call Mental Health Training Videos received a Bronze Award in the category of Non-Broadcast General-Education for the entire series.

The First Response Mental Health Training Videos for firefighters and paramedics as well as the Roll Call Mental Health Training Videos for law enforcement were produced by Emmy Award-Winning filmmaker, Matthew Murray with cinematography by Evan Barthelman and original music by Mark Kirby.

If you’re a firefighter or a paramedic and wish to access the video series, please register at: