First responders (firefighters, police officers, EMT’s and other medical professionals) face constant exposure to death, destruction and other traumatic situations. Not surprisingly, those on the front lines can be at higher risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance abuse disorders. And, according to a 2017 study, police and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
Typically characterized as heroic, strong and brave, first responders are often concerned about being labeled as “weak” if they seek help for symptoms of mental illness or substance abuse. But, first responders can help change the “suffer-in-silence” mentality typical of their professions by:
- Supporting a culture that “normalizes” emotions. Any human who witnesses trauma—especially repeatedly (as is the case with first responders)—will feel certain emotions. That means your co-workers likely understand what you’re going through. It’s okay to talk about it. Choose to stop the stigma.
- Understanding how lack of treatment can be detrimental. Untreated symptoms can negatively impact job performance, family relationships and even physical health.
- Learning about “red flags” that might indicate co-workers are struggling. This can include erratic behavior, disciplinary issues, excessive anger or irritability, lack of personal hygiene and sudden issues with finances or relationships.
Here’s what to look for when seeking qualified mental health/substance abuse treatment providers (such as those at Travco Behavioral Health):
- Training: clinicians are typically required to complete specific education and training in order to be licensed as a provider.
- Experience: the provider you choose should have previously (and successfully) helped others with concerns similar to yours.
- Core competencies: clinicians should listen carefully and nonjudgmentally, validate clients’ experiences and normalize clients’ emotions.
- Treatment planning: the provider should collaborate with you to create a specific strategy for meeting your individual goals.
- Rapport: you should feel comfortable sharing openly and honestly with your clinician.
Additional resources for first responders:
- ResponderREL8 App—anonymous, peer-support chat for first responders
- The Code Green Campaign®—first responder-oriented mental health advocacy and education organization
- COVID-19 Behavioral Health Resources—curated for first responders by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
If you’re ready to experience the life you deserve, contact Travco Behavioral Health today to begin treatment with our expert clinicians!