By: Judson Smith, MHA, Paramedic
First responders witness the horrors of society on a daily basis. They have a front row seat to the tremendous aftermath of events that would put the fear of god into their civilian counterparts. Over time, the things they see, the screams they hear, and the people they see die takes a toll on their mental well-being. Their bravery and resiliency are commendable.
PTSD & Suicide in Emergency Services
The cumulative effect of these challenges and stress can contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A recent study reported that 103 firefighters and 140 police officers died due to suicide in 2017. That exceeds the number of line of duty deaths for both firefighters (93) and police officers (129) during the same time period. Research also suggests that PTSD is about 3.5 times more common among first responders and suicide rates are five times higher than the general population.
One of the most concerning things is that little has been done to address the growing number of first responder mental health issues. Unfortunately, this has led some to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol or substance abuse. To help, Medic-CE, in collaboration with Dr. Phil Callahan and JEMS, has created a new, evidence-based Resiliency training program that teaches first responders five key coping skills they can use in their personal and professional life to better deal with the stressors they face.
The fact is, our mental health can be impacted by a single event or a culmination of events. We are excited to begin offering this new online training and to help our fellow paramedics, firefighters, and other first responders learn how to build a good support structures so that they can better handle the trauma they face every single day. As Jane Howard said, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”