Laurie Cyr-Martel volunteers to support frontline pandemic workers experiencing tough times

Laurie Cyr-Martel, D.BH, CICISM., LCPC, clinical coordinator for the Student Counseling Center on the Portland Campus, is no stranger to helping those on the front lines of traumatic situations.

“First responders have always been part of my heart and soul,” she stated. “Having walked in some of their shoes, first as a paramedic and then with law enforcement, I can appreciate how difficult it is to navigate the horrific situations they’ve faced. Sometimes they don’t have the support they need.”

For nearly 40 years, Cyr-Martel has consulted with and for emergency service systems throughout the United States including the San Francisco, California Police Department; Anchorage, Alaska Emergency Services; Tuscaloosa, Alabama Police Department; and agencies throughout New England.

She was recently called on by the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to assist with a new Frontline Warmline, designed to lend support to first responders and health care workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is basically a support line one can call, to receive support, find resources, and speak with someone who can acknowledge and validate the difficulties that they are facing,” Cyr-Martel explained. “It is not therapy and it is not counseling. It is support for individuals who have experienced situations and need a way to vent.”

Cyr-Martel is part of the faculty who support the team of 90 volunteers made up of physicians, nurses, counselors, and social workers who staff the phone line from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. each day. They offer what is known as psychological first-aid (PFA).

“PFA is based on connecting with individuals on a human level in a non-intrusive and compassionate manner,” Cyr-Martel said. “It aims to stabilize immediate needs and provide physical and emotional comfort. Frontline workers’ reactions are absolutely normal and typical based on the abnormal situation that they are charged with handling. Having a way to connect with another human being in times of crisis can provide relief, validation, and reassurance.”

Cyr-Martel says many individuals who call the line have had their ability to cope with stress tested before, but not to this extent.

“The pandemic is not only unprecedented, but there is so much unknown,” she commented. “We look at the undercurrents of some of the angst and anxiety that has been created due to the situation. People have lost their jobs, loved ones, and their way of life. With the loss, grief, and uncertainty, we are hoping to provide our callers with a sense of purpose, a sense of hope.”

If you or someone you know is on the frontline of the pandemic and need someone to talk to, you can call the Frontline Warmline at (207) 221-8196 or toll-free at (866) 367-4440.

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