WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – Every day first responders see and experience things that might be hard to deal with off the clock. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t made it any easier for them to deal with their mental health either.

This week, the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board is holding a Week of Appreciation to honor first responders and let them know help is available.

The effort isn’t new.

“Started it in the midst of the opioid epidemic,” said Lauren Thorp, who works for the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board.

Those who are first to address those in need are more than your traditional first responders.

“We also believe that clinicians and therapists and the people working in treatment centers are also first responders,” Thorp said.

This week, they are holding a Week of Appreciation to check in and let all workers know they are seen and respected.

“As our overdose numbers increase in the wrong direction, they also experience loss. They are a part of these people’s stories. They get to know them. When they lose a client, that’s hard on them, too,” Thorp said.

She says juggling an ongoing opioid epidemic and the pandemic at the same is not easy.

“We have seen an increase in calls from first responders looking for help, looking for someone to talk to,” Thorp said.

It adds extra stress to an already taxing job.

“And the same thing with our clinicians. They want to meet with their clients and be there for their clients, but they also have to stay safe. They need to keep their clients safe. Do we do telehealth? Do we see them in person? Do we wear a mask? Do we not wear a mask? All the things take that mental and emotional toll on them also,” Thorp said.

If that strain isn’t addressed, it could lead to a host of poor coping skills. Thorp says that’s why this Week of Appreciation is so important.

They will be sharing small tokens of their love hoping it leaves a big impact, from providing breakfast to sending thank you cards.

“Sometimes it gets frustrating and you wonder if your work matters, but I’m here to tell you as someone who talks to people in recovery all the time, your work matters and you’re helping a ton of people,” Thorp said.

She says if you know of a first responder that needs help or if you need it yourself, she suggests calling 211 for assistance.