No one is more exposed to the brutality and sadness of death and dying than first responders and other care professionals whose daily work involves the sick, dying and bereaved.

The repeated exposure to trauma combined with a culture of avoiding conversations about death can take a toll, which is where Hospice of Santa Barbara steps in.

“Death and mortality are difficult subjects to talk about,” said David Selberg, CEO at Hospice of Santa Barbara. “This can be particularly challenging for those whose work requires them to be ‘the strong ones.’ ”

Through their Community Education and Outreach programs, Hospice of Santa Barbara has begun providing support to first responders and other care professionals.

This includes trainings, education, discussion forums, and critical-incidence debriefings. The organization works with those who deal with death and illness as part of their job and the community at large.

In 2016, Hospice of Santa Barbara met, for the first time, with more than 300 local first responders for resiliency training to discuss ways in which they can care for themselves, and each other, as they face high rates of compassion fatigue, trauma, stress and even PTSD at work.

In 2017, Hospice of Santa Barbara already has provided support to groups of firefighters who have been impacted by an unexpected tragic death.

Emergency medical technicians, paramedics, firefighters, police officers and other first responders see and attend to car accidents, heart attacks, domestic abuse, home fires, gunshot wounds, and every kind of accident, illness, and death.

They are often thrown into the middle of a family crisis where family members may be in various stages of panic, fear and hysteria.

HSB also works with people at other local organizations whose daily work involves the sick, dying and bereaved. In 2016, HSB worked with Dream Foundation, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, Child Abuse Listening and Mediation, Casa Serena, New Beginnings and others.

They provide training and guidance for these groups to enhance compassion and listening skills as they interact with individuals and families with whom they work.

“In addition to providing them with greater understanding for working with those in grief, we also focus on self-care so that these care professionals can ensure their own good emotional and physical health,” Selberg said.

“Our hope is that those who are touched by our trainings will gain valuable insights that will lead to reduced anxiety, bring healing and resiliency,” he said.

In 2016, Hospice of Santa Barbara conducted 102 Community Education and Outreach trainings, workshops and presentations to 5,761 people locally.

To learn more about these events and others, such as the monthly Learn at Lunch series, Death and Cupcakes discussion group, end-of-life planning, and advance care workshops, call 563-8820.

Hospice of Santa Barbara provides, at no cost, professional counseling and patient care services to people who are experiencing the impact of a serious illness, or grieving the death of a loved one.

For more information about Hospice of Santa Barbara, including volunteer opportunities, call 563-8820 or visit

— Hannah Rael/Chris Davis for Hospice of Santa Barbara.