Mental health support and advocacy for our heroes
Douglas County nonprofit, It’s A Calling Foundation (IACF), was founded to provide mental health and wellness support for emergency responders, frontline medical workers, service members, veterans and the families who support them.
This work requires strength, courage and bravery, but behind that grit, these heroes can experience emotional tolls leading to mental health struggles, suicidal thoughts, marriage and family relationship issues, substance abuse and more.
Retired Chief Deputy Nick Metz spent more than 36 years in law enforcement, most recently as chief of police for the Aurora Police Department. Nick knows all too well the suffering that can result from this work. “I’ve seen what the job can do to responders,” he said.
Nick and his wife, Dr. Sara Metz, run Code4Counseling in Lone Tree. She is a long-standing licensed clinical public safety psychologist and he received his master’s degree in counseling after retirement. Together they are champions for mental health for this dedicated community.
Code4Counseling contracts with state and local agencies for counseling services. Nick established IACF in 2021 to provide financial assistance to individuals not covered under agency contacts – such as those in smaller jurisdictions, retirees and non-covered family members. IACF makes sure those who need mental health assistance can receive it. In 2023, IACF facilitated 753 counseling sessions, averaging 12 sessions per client.
Although Colorado is high on the list of educating first responders about prioritizing mental health, Nick shared that there is a significant trend nationwide in responder and family-member related suicide. “It’s our big target – to make sure responders know what resources are available,” he added.
Sharing personal stories is powerful. It serves as a reminder that no one is alone – not only what is seen and felt on the job, but also the impacts on relationships. Nick shared that former Douglas County Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Detective Dan Brite and his wife, Sergeant Christina Brite, serve on the IACF board of directors and generously share their story and struggles. Dan was shot while on duty in 2016, leaving him paralyzed.
“When you call 911 you want to know that the officer who is showing up, that firefighter who is showing up, that ER nurse who is taking care of your child in the most dire time, is as emotionally and mentally healthy as can be,” concluded Nick.
IACF is always interested in recruiting new board members who are committed to supporting responders and their families. Support for the organization can be made in many ways, including online donations, hosting a business, personal or community event with IACF as the beneficiary, or through IACF planned events.
By Elean Gersack; photos courtesy of It’s A Calling Foundation