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The role of a first responder is to help others. For firefighters, healthcare workers, and police officers, strength and bravery are highly valued—and many first responders adopt a “whatever it takes” mentality. However, constant exposure to traumatic events and life-threatening situations—including the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic within the last year—as well as the stress of working long hours under high-stakes conditions can take a significant toll on mental health. High rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and suicide make it clear that first responder mental health requires early intervention.
If you’re experiencing mental health symptoms or navigating trauma, help is available. Here’s how mental health programs, therapy, and counseling can help firefighters, law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and other responders improve their mental well-being.
Mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, substance use, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal ideation are common among firefighters, law enforcement officers, paramedics, emergency medical services (EMS) professionals, and other responders.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), public health and public safety workers are exposed to countless hazards throughout their careers that may contribute to mental health concerns, including:
Specific mental health problems can also be brought on from the fast pace of work, as responders are constantly responding to highly stressful and risky calls. According to a study, 69 percent of EMS personnel have never had sufficient time to recover between traumatic events.
According to a 2018 study, law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. Moreover, 85 percent of first responders have reported experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions, with responders in the U.S. facing a significantly higher risk of depression and PTSD.
Supporting and protecting your community can lead to stress, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Ultimately, how you cope with these emotions can affect your well-being, the care you provide to others, and the well-being of your loved ones. Some valuable mental health resources to help you cope include:
From protection against infectious diseases to suicide prevention, first responders play an integral role in strengthening our communities. Whether you’re a healthcare provider, social worker, firefighter, or paramedic, psychotherapy is the first step toward improving your mental well-being.
To find a therapist, reach out to a mental health provider through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you to a licensed therapist you feel comfortable with. One of our experienced, compassionate mental health providers will help you navigate your mental health, overcome trauma, and live a more fulfilling life.