The Battle for Mental Health is Real for Local First Responders Who Put Their Lives on the Line

Pasadena firefighters and police box to raise funds for mental health charity in an exhibition match at City Hall Saturday

Published : Thursday, September 19, 2019 | 5:11 AM

Members of Pasadena Fire Department, Pasadena Police Department and athletes from the Villa-Parke boxing program will step into the ring for an evening of exhibition boxing matches at Centennial Square on Saturday afternoon to benefit a nonprofit dedicated to helping first responders cope with the mental stress from their difficult and vitally important occupations.

The Battle for Mental Health Charity Boxing Event will feature demonstration bouts and 100 percent of proceeds will go to Next Rung.

Police officers and firefighters experience out of the ordinary and life-threatening situations every day and it can take a toll.

“It’s going to be a great day, we’re going to have boxing and entertainment, with food trucks and live music,” said Scott Henderson of the Pasadena Fire Department, who will also put on the gloves in an exhibition bout at the event. “It’s a family friendly event and it’s for a good cause.”

Next Rung is one of the few organizations that helps police, fire and EMS personnel deal with mental health issues.

“Departments are starting to catch on and it’s something we need to talk about,” Henderson said. “At the end of the day we are just like everybody else. The old school belief was ‘Tough it out, you chose this job, deal with it.’ And lot of people say ‘I got this,’ but when they go home they fall into alcohol abuse and substance abuse and that puts bad thoughts in your head.”

Everyone has a battle of some type, said Coach Fausto De La Torre, the boxing specialist for Pasadena’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

“We are going to have some boxing demonstrations and we’re there to support the cause,” De La Torre said. “We all have a fighting chance at life and here we are showing we can continue to fight the good fight.”

Henderson said suicide is a pervasive problem that is only now coming to light. As first responders are looked up to in the community and have to rise to a high standard of expectations to be strong and superhero”like, it’s often difficult to talk about the reality of the emotional toll of the job.

“There are times when I’ve been on calls and in 15 years sometimes there will be a smell or a noise that brings back a memory of something tragic,” he said. “We have ways to cope, like talking to peers and exercise. I’m a tough guy, and I put on an exterior that everything’s good, but even I have these days that I don’t feel too good about some of the things I see or hear.”

Henderson said he’s looking forward to the exhibition and the entire event.

“I’m stepping into the ring to fight for this cause,” he said. “I’m getting in the ring to show that I’m stepping up to say that even me, I have to talk about this stuff. These types of events let people know it’s OK to talk about your problems.”

One of the anticipated exhibition matches also includes Pasadena Police Officer Brian Petrella vs. Pasadena Firefighter Bryan King. Donations can be made here: https://www.paypal.me/nextrung and add “FIGHT” in the comments or on-site during the event.

The Battle for Mental Health Charity Event is set to occur Saturday, September 21, from 3:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Centennial Square in front of Pasadena City Hall, 200 North Garfield Avenue.

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