SERVICES FOR FIRST RESPONDERS

First responders are the individuals who respond to emergency situations in order to provide assistance. Most commonly, first responders are police officers, paramedics, firefighters, emergency dispatchers, and military health care workers. People who choose one of these professions frequently face potentially dangerous and traumatic situations, therefore being at risk of developing a wide range of mental health issues.

When faced with acute or prolonged stress, first responders can find support with a licensed mental health professional. who specialize in addressing the issues faced by this unique population. Some of the examples of distress and mental health challenges that first responders face may include acute stress disorder, PTSD, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, parental alienation, burnout, shift work syndrome, and suicidal thoughts, to name a few.

In some cases, first responders might experience symptoms of PTSD, such as intrusive memories about the event, flashbacks, nightmares, fear, physical tension or agitation, emotional numbness, and a desire to avoid talking or thinking about the traumatic event. Research shows that people who have experienced prior trauma have a significantly higher rate to develop PTSD than those who have not. For that reason, first responders are at an increased risk for PTSD because they are likely to be exposed to trauma repeatedly.

Substance abuse, depression, and suicide are other mental health issues particularly relevant to first responders. Some police officers, firefighters, and other first responders may use substances as a way to cope with the stress of their jobs, and research shows the rates of substance abuse are higher among first responders than the general population. The rates of suicide and depression are also higher among first responders, possibly at least in part due to the many environmental stressors they face, in addition to the stressors of their job.

Some first responders may find it difficult to seek help, or they may feel reluctant to do so, partially due to societal expectations and idealizations of people in these profession as heroes, as people who can do no wrong, as super-human entities, who are always strong and tough, both mentally and physically. Many people still erroneously view mental health concerns as a sign of weakness, and this belief can be harmful to all individuals but especially to those expected by society to show no weakness, since it may lead them to deny the presence of any issue and avoid seeking help, due at least in part to a fear of being judged for their "weakness."

I offer CONFIDENTIAL therapy to the first responders. My goal is to help every first responder and his/her family to learn how to cope with the unique stressors that the Blue line culture may not openly discuss. First responder PTSD and suicide are very real and devastating issues. We are here to do what we can to prevent yet another police officer or a firefighter from taking his/her own life.