The men and women in public safety are being asked to do a lot. These professionals work diligently in demanding — and all-too-often thankless — careers, from those we rely on in a medical emergency to those we trust to defend justice. Is enough being done to protect them as they protect us? Here’s a look at some of the mental health issues that our first responders confront.
According to a recent study, more firemen commit suicide than perish in the line of duty. Furthermore, it is estimated that between 125 and 300 police personnel commit themselves each year. Higher rates of suicide attempt, attempt, and ideation have been observed, which is concerning. Typically, they are the result of the trauma and emotional stress they have experienced as a result of their jobs.
These high-risk, high-stress vocations put people in risky — and occasionally life-threatening — situations. They may be exposed to bodily injuries, environmental risks, demanding circumstances, and a variety of other elements that have the potential to negatively impact their mental health. Long working hours, physical strain, and a lack of sleep are some work-related factors that have been shown to have an impact.
With all of these events, it’s no surprise that 30 percent of first responders acquire depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other behavioral health issues when compared to the general population. The stress doesn’t go away when you’re not working, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone. Officers and other public safety personnel with PTSD may have a variety of symptoms, including substance addiction, rage, anxiety, sleeping problems, and digestive troubles, among others.
Mental health is still stigmatized, despite the fact that resources and treatment are available to those suffering from PTSD. This stigma is widespread in the United States, but it is especially strong in these fields. Such social and cultural barriers frequently cause treatment to be delayed, leaving public safety personnel to fight the battle alone.
Fortunately, organizations are striving to reduce the stigma of mental illness among present and retired first responders. There has been success in fostering support, therapy, and more open communication through enhanced preventive and educational activities.
Peer support can be helpful, but professional assistance is still necessary. A wide number of services provide such assistance. Virtual assistance services are private, and public safety workers have various free possibilities. Call lines manned with persons who understand the drain and labor connected with keeping the public safe are also available.
There is so much that needs to be done to assist our heroes in health care and public safety. It may begin with all of us working together to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental health treatment. Please see the resource below for more information on PTSD in public safety personnel.