The men and women who work in public safety are expected to do a great deal. From those we rely on in a medical emergency to those we trust to protect justice, these professionals work tirelessly in difficult — and all-too-often thankless — occupations. Is enough being done to safeguard them in the same way that they safeguard us? Here are some of the mental health concerns that our first responders must deal with.
A recent study found that more firefighters commit suicide than die in the line of duty. In addition, it is estimated that between 125 and 300 police officers commit themselves every year. Suicide attempt, attempt, and ideation rates have all increased, which is worrying. Typically, they are the result of the trauma and emotional stress that their employment have caused them.
These high-stress, high-risk jobs place people in dangerous — and often life-threatening — situations. They may be exposed to physical injuries, environmental risks, stressful situations, and a range of other factors that might severely effect their mental health. Long work hours, physical strain, and a lack of sleep are just a few examples of work-related issues that have been found to have an influence.
When compared to the general population, 30 percent of first responders develop depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other behavioral health difficulties as a result of these occurrences. When you’re not working, the stress doesn’t go away, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone. Substance addiction, wrath, anxiety, sleeping problems, and digestive disorders are just a few of the symptoms that officers and other public safety workers may experience as a result of PTSD.
Despite the fact that persons suffering from PTSD have access to resources and treatment, mental health is still stigmatized. In the United States, this stigma is ubiquitous, but it is especially prevalent in these industries. Treatment is frequently delayed as a result of such social and cultural hurdles, leaving public safety employees to deal with it alone.
Thankfully, organizations are working to remove the stigma associated with mental illness among active and retired first responders. Through improved preventive and instructional efforts, there has been success in creating support, therapy, and more open communication.
Peer support can be beneficial, but professional help is still required. This type of aid is available from a variety of sources. Virtual support services are private, although public safety personnel have a number of free options. There are also call lines staffed by those who understand the drain and labor involved in keeping the public secure.
There is so much that can be done to help our heroes in the areas of health care and public safety. It may start with all of us working together to raise awareness and remove stigma surrounding mental health treatment. More information about PTSD in public safety workers can be found in the resource below.