We are struggling. First responders are finding it difficult to adjust to life after their frontline experiences. We are trying to push through or self-isolate instead of understanding that the emotional fog we are walking through is a normal part of the post-trauma mental health process.
I find the losses to our families staggering. Due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. EMS providers are 1.39 times more likely to take their own lives than the public. And studies have found that between 17 and 24% of public safety telecommunicators have symptoms of PTSD and 24% have symptoms of depression.
Our medical teams are not fairing much better either. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that each year, 300 to 400 physicians die by suicide — that is more than one physician taking his or her own life every day. Female physician suicide deaths are 250 to 400% higher when compared to females in other professions. Medical students have depression rates 15 to 30% higher than the general population, and a JAMA Psychiatry study states that female nurses have double the suicide risk as women in the general population.
The importance of first responder treatment and support
Teaching first responders to be cool under fire is great, but they also need guidance on how to de-escalate their internal emotional experiences. Treatment and post-disaster counseling can give those who boldly rush in to save lives techniques to quiet the images and feelings that are sometimes replayed in our heads and triggered by the smallest of things.
The first thing to realize is you are not alone. There are thousands of us out here feeling and experiencing the same turmoil as you. Once we can dissipate the emotional fog, we see that we have always been standing next to one another. Managing anxiety, depression, anger, PTSD, and sleep deprivation can begin with an open dialog when you can talk with other first responders who are experiencing the same things.
Treatment is important because it supplies a proven framework that helps build ourselves back to who we were or want to be. It can help mitigate our anxieties and bring us back home. It is a powerful tool that produces a better and more well-managed you.
You have taken care of us, now take care of you
As mentioned before, being able to talk about things is a huge step forward in treating PTSD and other post-traumatic first responder issues. Peer support groups can help even if you attend and stay silent. One-on-one counseling may be right for you. We cannot underestimate medication. Did you know that we manage many mental health issues like anxiety or nightmares with blood pressure medications? Trigger management can also be a lifesaver.
Discover what kind of support and treatment is right for you. Life is messy and never one size fits all. The important thing to remember is we are here for you. Again, you are never alone and we will meet you where you happen to be. There is always a helping hand to lift you back to solid ground.
The results of first responder treatment and support can lead to better emotional management, family and societal interactions, a rebuilding of confidence, and a rediscovering of you.