Often overlooked, first responders are frequently exposed to trauma and are at an increased risk for behavioral health issues. These selfless individuals can suffer from stress and develop mental health conditions just like everyone else. In fact, first responders' jobs expose them to high levels of stress and trauma that can trigger the onset of mental health conditions like depression and PTSD.
So what can be done to help these hardworking heroes? One important step is to provide them with mental health training prior to their assignments to help them cope with the stressors they may encounter in the field.
Through the training that first responders receive before and during their careers about how to manage stress and respond to traumatic events, they can develop coping mechanisms that can help them handle stressful situations.
Training in resiliency techniques and strategies can help first responders recognize signs of behavioral health issues in themselves and others, understand how to access resources, and feel comfortable seeking treatment or assistance when needed.
It is also critical that organizations work together with individual workers to establish an environment where everyone feels comfortable discussing their mental health and seeking help when they need it. This includes ensuring that supervisors are aware of available resources for employees and making sure no one is overworked or experiencing excessive stress on the job.
We have all seen the critical and challenging situations that emergency responders can face. However, despite large amounts of training and experience in crisis situations, first responders are still human, and thus need to be worried about the psychological toll of being confronted with death and tragedy on a regular basis. We think it is vital that proven methods to prevent mental health crises in first responders be utilized by all disaster response organizations.