Franklin County mental health organization wins Governor’s EMS Award

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 5:33 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - An organization in one of our hometowns has just been selected for a 2020 Governor’s EMS Award.

A Franklin County man started Putting a Dent in Mental Health, which Governor Ralph Northam is now recognizing for its Outstanding Contribution to EMS Health and Safety.

Franklin County Public Safety First Responder Jonathan Smith found out Saturday that all his hard work in the mental health world was being noticed.

“I never thought would be possible because of who I am and coming from a small town like that, compared to the men and women I was up against, I never thought I would win, so receiving that award Saturday was really a big step and honorable moment for me,” Smith, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Putting a Dent in Mental Health, said.

Smith found out he received one out of a dozen of Governor Northam’s EMS awards dedicated to organizations’ Outstanding Contributions to Virginia’s EMS System.

“Receiving that reward means that we are putting a dent into the statistics because we are being seen, we’re being recognized . . . And that means when they see our name and the research on who we are, they’re seeing the stuff and education tips we’re putting out,” Smith said.

The award was for the organization Smith started, Putting a Dent in Mental Health, for his friend and fellow first responder Robbie Dent, who took his own life in June of 2018.

“After his death, we started doing research on first responder suicide and stuff like that, and we wanted to keep his name alive because he had such a passion to help people,” Smith said.

Putting a Dent in Mental Health promotes first responder mental health and works toward putting a dent in statistics on suicide.

He said, “We’re seen as heroes . . and as a hero, you don’t want to seem weak amongst co-workers or not fit for the job, so we’re trying to break that stigma,” by teaching classes on mental health and starting peer-support groups.

“Our team has grown from just two of us in August 2018 and now we’re up to 15 members,” Smith said.

The pandemic has shed an extra light on first responders’ mental health.

“Taken such a toll on first responders, so we have really been busy trying to break the stigma,” he said.

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