23. Responding To The Responder

Rhonda Kelly, Founder of ResponderStrong and Director of Health, Wellness & Resilience for Global Medical Response… AND OG CF BF, joins me on this cast to dig into the lives of our first and emergency responders. 

First responders (definition) typically include paramedics, emergency medical technicians, police officers, firefighters, rescuers, and other trained members of organizations connected with this type of work.

Rhonda is where a wealth of education meets a wealth of experience- she has done, lived, and learned it A LOT, across several service careers, continents, and communities. It’s always refreshing to see people start initiatives, foundations, and business from heart space vs. potential capital gain (and I respect the biz person, as you know) and that is exactly what Rhonda did in establishing ResponderStrong. Rhonda shares her journey, career, and her mission to help not only save the lives of the first and emergency responders, but change the way the entire “service and responder industry” hires, maintains, manages, and protects their own. Mental health is a long overdue conversation that is thankfully, becoming more relevant and less stigmatized. Rhonda has seen this need for a focus on mental health for decades, particularly amongst our men and women of service, and that need is finally being recognized and things are being done about it- because of her and many change agents aka community influencers like her.  The occupational stress put on our first and emergency responders does not just impact them, but their families and communities as well. We cover a host of mental health and wellness topics and talk about what is going on right now to make it better and grow the conversation and awareness. There is great information for anyone in service… or anyone that has a brain:). While this convo is specific to responders- it’s great fuel for thought for everyone. It’s ok to not be ok. We all need more selfcare AND maintaining that self-awareness will prevent us all from slipping down an unnecessary, destructive path. People are out there, resources are out there, it matters, you matter, please reach out! 


Mental health. The lives of first and emergency responders. Support vs. solution. Wanting to help people, but not having the agency to do so. Disputing the disruptive cycle. Self-care. Childhood trauma to adulthood drama. Mind flexibility. Universe speaking, Rhonda following! Maslow’s Hierarchy. Misunderstood human behavior. Occupational stress. Impact. Take care of yourself, take care of the world. The resources out there to help!

Rhonda Kelly:

Founder ResponderStrong and Director of Health, Wellness & Resilience for Global Medical Response

Rhonda has led a varied life as an oceanographer, firefighter/paramedic, and psych ER nurse among other pursuits. Several years ago, she guided her interest in emergency responder mental health into the creation of ResponderStrong, an initiative aimed at improving mental health supports for responders and their families. Most recently, she has returned to her broader passion of overall wellness and is developing a program encompassing nutrition, sleep, movement and mindset to help emergency medical personnel lead their best lives. Rhonda is an ardent believer in the power and synergy of collaboration to solve big issues. 


The mental, emotional and physical impacts of emergency response work can compromise our ability to be there for our brothers and sisters in uniform, to be engaged with our families, and to protect our communities.  Founded at the National Mental Health Innovation Center of the University of Colorado Anschutz, ResponderStrong is a collaboration between emergency responders and their advocates. Our mission is to improve mental health supports for emergency responders and their families through joint focuses on intervention and prevention. Our site serves as a resource map for responder-informed crisis and clinical services as well as easily accessible educational content and tools for responders, their families, their leaders and the clinicians who work with them. ResponderStrong has also created custom educational content regarding relationships, stress management, and resiliency in response to community needs assessments.

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