This blog was taken from Dr. Brooke Bartlett’s webinar on Proactive Peer Support. To watch the full webinar, please click here.

In the realm of first responder mental health, the significance of peer support cannot be overstated. While reactive support remains crucial, adopting a proactive approach is equally essential. This involves reaching out to colleagues preemptively, especially during significant life transitions and events, to identify potential risks and offer support. In this blog, we will delve into the proactive approach to peer support, focusing on anniversary dates and major life transitions, and highlight key considerations for effective check-ins.

The Power of Proactive Peer Support:

A proactive model seeks to identify events or time frames that are significant to the individual, whether they are inherently negative or simply mark major life transitions. In other words, proactive peer support extends beyond incident-specific assistance or waiting for someone to reach out in times of distress. It involves anticipating potential challenges and offering a helping hand regardless of whether the individuals explicitly identify a need for it.

Anniversary Dates: More Than Just Marking Time:

One of the most effective preemptive tools in peer support is the recognition of anniversary dates. These dates can encompass a wide range of experiences, from the tragic to the celebratory. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Traumatic Events:

    • Acknowledging the anniversary of a major critical incident or the loss of a close friend or crew member allows peer supporters to reach out during emotionally charged periods, providing comfort and understanding.
  • Personal Milestones:

    • Celebrating the sobriety of a colleague or the birth of a child may seem positive, but these milestones also represent significant life changes. Proactive support ensures individuals feel seen and supported during both challenging and joyful times.
  • Major Life Transitions:

    • Anticipating retirement, promotions, marriages, or the finalization of a divorce is crucial. Proactive support during these transitions helps individuals navigate new roles, responsibilities, and emotional landscapes.

Guidelines for Effective Check-Ins:

Proactive peer support involves more than just reaching out; it requires thoughtful consideration of the individual’s needs and emotions. Here are two key guidelines for successful check-ins:

  • Using Information Effectively:

    • Information gathered during each check-in should inform the need for additional support. Assessing the emotional state of a member allows supporters to determine when reaching out again would be most beneficial.
  • Transparency and Consistent Follow-Ups:

    • Transparent communication about the intention to follow up is vital. If you plan to check in again, inform the individual at the end of the conversation, and be sure to follow-up as communicated. Following through on planned follow-ups builds trust and reinforces the reliability of the support system.

Avoid Leading and Presumptuous Language:

Maintaining a supportive and non-judgmental approach is key to effective proactive peer support. Avoid presuming someone’s emotional state or leading with assumptions about their struggles. Instead, lead with open-ended questions, be transparent about the purpose of the call, and keep interactions informal.

A proactive approach to peer support is a cornerstone of promoting mental well-being among first responders. By recognizing the power of anniversary dates and major life transitions, and adhering to guidelines for effective check-ins, peer supporters can play a crucial role in fostering a supportive and resilient community. It’s not just about waiting for distress signals; it’s about actively building connections and offering assistance in both challenging and celebratory times.


To learn more about Dr. Brooke Bartlett’s services visit:

To learn more why PeerConnect’s proactive model can change the way your organization offers Peer Support book a demo by clicking here.

Read Dr. Bartlett’s blog on Building and Effective Peer Support program here