In the wake of September 11, 2001, the New York Fire Department, which lost 343 firefighters in the tragedy, expanded its counseling unit from 7 to 107 counselors to provide critical support for its servicemen and women. Despite the ongoing counseling support, the problems of post-traumatic stress among firefighters persisted.
Firefighters and Stress:
Meditation to the Rescue!
In 2011, Ed Schloeman, the co-chair of Operation Warrior Wellness (a division of the David Lynch Foundation) and a Marine Vietnam veteran, approached Fire Department’s Commissioner Cassano with an offer to bring meditation training to the lives of those devastated by 9/11 and provide support for active-duty first responders in the field.
Ed said that the Transcendental Meditation technique would provide first responders with a simple, powerful tool to relieve stress and develop resilience to the unexpected onslaught of traumas and emergencies which are a regular feature of a firefighter’s life.
“I wasn’t going to try to sell something like Transcendental Meditation to my guys unless I did it myself,” recalls Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, who recently retired after serving 44 years in the fire department. “So I learned how to meditate, and I liked the results. It’s a stressful job with little sleep. Right away, I noticed a big difference. I slept better at night and I felt better during the day. I look at this as a tool in the toolbox to handle stress.”
“It’s so easy to see the physical wounds of a first-responder or veteran—and we know, for a fact, what to do to help them heal. But it’s so difficult to see the psychological wounds that come from trauma and stress,” Commissioner Cassano said.
“From my own experience, I can tell you about the tremendous effects of Transcendental Meditation on my life and how it has helped me calm down and overcome stress. Now we have to help our first responders and our veterans. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that servicemen and women know their sacrifice is not forgotten, that we as Americans, appreciate what they’ve done for us,” Commissioner Cassano said.
Based on its success in military schools, bases, and hospitals, as well as its work with veteran’s groups—and with the Commissioner’s full support—Operation Warrior Wellness is now expanding its outreach nationally to bring TM to the lives of 10,000 veterans and first-responders and their families. “We thank America’s veterans, servicemen and first-responders for your courage, dedication and work—and we pledge to you that we will do everything in our power to bring you this wonderful tool of TM so that you can live healthier, more productive, fulfilling lives. You have earned it. You deserve it,” Ed Schloeman said.
Article originally published as:
“FDNY Commissioner Cassano, TM and First Responders” by Bibi Tran for the David Lynch Organization