Serve & Protect, a Brentwood based nonprofit that seeks to facilitate trauma services for public safety professionals, is celebrating seven years.
While the charity itself has only been in existence since 2011, founder Rob Michaels told us the journey to forming Serve & Protect started in the 70s for him.
It was his experience as an MP with the Virginia National Guard followed by his time with the Norfolk Police Department in the 70s where he served on patrol and as a detective, that helped build the framework of what would become Serve & Protect.
Michaels left law enforcement in 1978 and returned to college to study communications. After graduation, Michaels moved to Nashville and worked in the music business for 30 years.
One day, while praying for guidance, the idea for Serve & Protect came to mind and Michaels immediately began working on it.
Starting a nonprofit can be stressful, but thanks to Michaels’ experience as the Executive Director for Global Tribe, a non-profit of Newsboys, he was prepared and was able to navigate the paperwork with ease.
“Our formation was a process that began in 1970, preparing me for what would launch in 2011. Along the journey, I gained skills and experience necessary to begin such a work. Because of the journey, I could file the paperwork, create the By-Laws and Constitution, build our website and mobile app from templates, had credibility as law enforcement, and other skills that have served me well. For me, it was always a grand plan, a journey orchestrated by God. I am grateful to be used,” said Michaels.
Michaels’ goal was to help people across the nation with Serve & Protect.
“Because I wanted this to be nationwide, I wanted a crisis line. Thirty days after launch Sean Riley with Safe Call Now saw my post on LinkedIn and called to tell me about his crisis line for public safety. They help locate residential care for more intensive issues. We have been partners since.”
Now, seven years later, Serve & Protect facilitates trauma services for public safety professionals with PTSD symptoms, addictions, or thoughts of suicide. Whether through residential care, trauma therapists, chaplains, or related services including service dogs, equine therapy or other means. Plus they host numerous educational seminars throughout the year for public safety professionals and their families.
The biggest challenge Michaels and his team experiences is post-traumatic stress and suicide. Michaels says the most important thing is education.
“Perhaps the most important concern is education about the issues of post-traumatic stress and suicide. We refer to post traumatic stress injury rather than disorder. It is an emotional wound that, with proper treatment by a qualified trauma therapist, can most often be resolved. Left unresolved because of fear or shame – or possible retribution from their agency, PTSI can devolve into deep depression, addiction, and sadly too often, suicide,” said Michaels.
Michaels hosts numerous seminars each year and will host one in Brentwood in October.
“Last year I taught 40+ seminars on trauma and suicide, 25 for Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and six for Hendersonville Fire Department. In October we will host a 7-hour symposium for area public safety covering trauma and suicide, family relationships, physical wellness, financial fitness, and faith. That will be streamed live on Facebook and recorded for free download from our website and partner sites,” said Michaels.
The statistics are staggering as Michaels shares with us how many have taken their lives compared to the number of deaths that occur in active duty.
“Last year at least 103 firefighters from across the U.S. took their own lives — more than the 93 who died in the line of duty, according to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance. And last year there were 140 police officer suicides across the country — more than the 129 officers killed while on duty according to research by the Ruderman Foundation. In both cases, suicides accounted for more deaths than those killed in the line of duty. Sadly, it is more likely the number is higher because of unreported suicides. In Chicago, the suicide rate is twice the number of line of duty deaths. We have a concerted effort there,” said Micheals.
Serve & Protect will be launching a video series and a spousal support group in our area. Michaels shares that we as a community can help by making a donation on their website www.serveprotect.org. Currently, local businesses that support the local nonprofit include Walmart, Lee Company, and Southern Land Company.
Learn more about the support and program at Serve & Protect’s website. Michaels is also available for speaking engagements at your business, civic groups, or local church.