Police officers, firefighters, and EMTs are expected to risk their lives for others every day, protecting their communities. However, many first responders find that their needs are put on the back burner. Not only are their physical lives put at risk, but their mental health is as well.
Many fire responders may experience depression, stress, trauma, and physical and mental burnout. While these professions are significant in their communities, it is important for first responders to take care of their physical and mental well-being. For first responders struggling with mental health and burnout, Roots Recovery offers tailored services.
First Responders and Mental Health
First responders are exposed to a number of hazards, whether direct or indirect. These hazards are often death, grief, injury and pain, and loss. Their personal safety, work hours and shifts, sleeping habits, and physical hardships all contribute to poor mental health in first responders.
First responders often experience burnout, trauma and fatigue, and physical and emotional stress. They may also experience depression alongside suicidal thoughts and addiction.
Burnout occurs due to prolonged periods of stress, leading to exhaustion. Many who experience burnout find the root cause in their workplace. For first responders, the constant stress and demand can lead to burnout. Burnout can result in difficulties with decision-making, depression, and anxiety.
Trauma and Fatigue
Trauma and fatigue often manifest in first responders who take much of their time being empathetic. Listening to another’s traumatic encounter can impact the first responder, leading to similar symptoms of burnout. Unlike burnout, though, trauma and fatigue can be extremely pervasive in one’s life, impacting many areas of their life. Some of these impacts include feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, lack of trust or safety, and isolation or withdrawal from others.
Physical and Emotional Stress
Physical and emotional stress can manifest themselves in the following ways:
- Headaches or backaches
- High blood pressure
- Sleep disorders or bowel problems
- Nervous tics
- Difficulty with managing emotions
- Low self-esteem or losing value in one’s life
- Depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social withdrawal
- Hyperviglicane or impulsivity
While all first responders are at risk of burnout, trauma, fatigue, and stress, EMTs, firefighters, and police officers may experience these differently.
Considerations for EMTs
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 6.8% of EMTs report being depressed largely due to their involvement in disasters. Likewise, many experience PTSD as well due to their tasking profession, involvement with other people’s traumas, and dissociation while experiencing disasters. Many EMTs also experience suicide ideation or tendencies with higher rates than the average population.
Considerations for Firefighters and Police Officers
For firefighters, rates of depression and PTSD are very high due to constant states of stress. These rates are even higher in female firefighters. In terms of substance use, many firefighters have had issues with alcohol consumption, leading to numerous mental health concerns. Firefighters are also likely to experience more suicidal ideation, which was found to be linked to PTSD for this population.
Especially after 9/11, many police officers have reported higher levels of depression and anxiety alongside PTSD. PTSD rates, though, were affected mostly due to a lack of social support and the inability to find work. In the presence of disasters, many officers turned to substance or alcohol use as well. Depression, anxiety, and anger are also linked back to greater suicide ideation in police officers.
Despite differences in each profession, coping with other people’s traumas as well as experiencing natural disasters firsthand, many first responders are subject to mental health disorders. It is vital to reach out for help if one’s mental health is suffering in the workforce, especially first responders who care for their communities directly.
Helping First Responders at Roots Recovery
At Roots Recovery, all client concerns and problems are kept confidential. The staff at Roots commits to creating a safe and comfortable environment, encouraging those in need of therapy and/or treatment to reach out free of concern.
Many talk therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help first responders. The methods used in CBT help people to express themselves verbally to persevere past difficult events that have affected them. Clients learn to question their destructive thoughts and beliefs that may have formed through trauma. Other services at Roots that may benefit this community are seeking safety, motivational interviewing, and somatic experiencing.
Seeking safety takes on a counseling model, helping clients achieve safety from trauma or substance abuse. For first responders, it is vital to achieve a sense of inner safety regardless of circumstances Seeking safety allows first responders to develop healthy coping skills to attain this internalized sense of safety.
Motivational interviewing can also benefit first responders. This service helps clients bring mindfulness into their daily practice to escape the addictive trappings of the mind. By developing a greater awareness of one’s triggers, reactions, and destructive habits, motivational interviewing helps first responders be aware of the present moment and react to daily stressors in a healthier way.
Somatic experiencing can help first responders with trauma and stress disorders by taking a body-oriented approach. This approach allows clients to assess their reactions and release negative energy bound in their bodies to address and persevere past the root causes of their symptoms.
Here at Roots Recovery, we help care for the first responder community who experiences daily hardships and stressors. Many first responders put their needs on the back burner, focusing on helping their communities. This can lead to a number of mental health struggles including depression, anxiety, PTSD, burnout, and suicidal tendencies. At Roots Recovery, many of our programs help first responders cope with their traumas and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Our goal is to help relieve first responders of their mental health struggles and foster a healthier and happier life in their workforce. To learn more about how first responders are cared for at Roots Recovery, please call us at (562) 473-0827.