9 Reasons Why First Responders Should Prioritize Mental Health

9 Reasons Why First Responders Should Prioritize Mental Health

Life is unexpected. Every day, the people of this world face all manner of life-or-death situations, from shootings, fires, floods, medical emergencies, and beyond. When the average person gets caught up in one of these emergencies, time and skill are of the essence, and that’s where first responders come in. When one of the roughly 600,000 9-1-1 calls made in the United States a day comes in with a dire situation, it’s up to the nation’s bravest to charge forth and save the day.

However, many first responders face a silent crisis: severe mental health struggles. Emergency work is traumatizing, resulting in a staggering number of emergency workers with mental health conditions like PTSD and depression. While these conditions might not sound too severe, there are several reasons why first responders should prioritize mental health and get treatment for these conditions.

1. It Helps with High-Stress Situations

Because first responders frequently face situations they can’t fully predict, they’re often under tremendous stress to keep up with them. First responders need a clear head to mentally keep up with their surroundings and react quickly to sudden changes. Without help learning to deal with stress, it can lead to impaired decision-making and judgment skills.

2. Address Depression

Over time, dealing with countless alarming situations can become a weight on one’s mind, leading to depression. Depression is a draining condition that robs happiness and causes physical symptoms like headaches and joint pain, but with therapy, it’s a surmountable condition.

3. Increases Energy

Conditions like depression and PTSD are also very energy-depleting, impacting emergency workers’ quality of sleep and leaving them fatigued. Exhaustion during an emergency can be a real problem, so first responders dealing with low energy should get checked out to see if it’s a side effect of a mental health condition they’re developing.

4. Keeps Personal Lives Personal

When someone undergoes constant stress over a long enough time without getting counseling or therapy to help process it and develop coping strategies, it can start affecting their personal life. PTSD and other related conditions can affect someone’s ability to react to smaller threats appropriately and cause irritability, which can cause frustration within a first responder’s personal life, which will result in additional stress at work.

5. Prevents Drug Usage

Many people suffering from generalized stress, anxiety, PTSD, depression, and other emotional-behavioral conditions will often turn to substances like alcohol, cigarettes, or illegal drugs to try and temporarily ease their symptoms. And first responders are just as susceptible to using harmful vices like these to cope. However, these substances can hurt their health. Getting mental health assistance is crucial to finding healthier ways to deal with these conditions and, if needed, come off of those substances and go sober.

6. Recover from Burnout and Compassion Fatigue

Two lesser-known problems many first responders suffer from are burnout and compassion fatigue, which are different but related phenomena. Burnout can exacerbate fatigue and impact the desire to engage with their job and co-workers. Compassion fatigue can cause first responders to feel like what they do isn’t helping, reduce their capacity for empathy, or make them neglect their own well-being. Developing these problems is almost guaranteed for first responders who have worked in their fields long enough, but therapy and counseling can help them navigate these problems, control them, and bounce back.

7. Move On from Loss

A sad reality of emergency work is that not everyone can be saved. Sometimes, things beyond an emergency worker’s control occur during emergencies, resulting in the loss of victims and co-workers. These losses can break a first responder, as they can feel like the first responder’s fault rather than something out of their control. Counseling can help first responders process these losses and accept that sometimes, fate has other plans.

8. Prevent Suicide

Another incredibly sad truth is that mental health problems can be so overwhelming for some that they’d rather die than suffer anymore; when someone acts upon these feelings, it’s suicide. Due to the high-stakes, high-stress nature of their work, emergency workers have an elevated suicide risk. Keeping a persistent focus on mental health reduces that risk.

9. Love The Job Again

When a job is causing someone incredible amounts of stress or trauma, it can be hard for them to see the value in what they do or want to continue working in their field. However, with proper mental health care, they can rekindle their love for what they do and see their work and sacrifices’ importance.

Accumulating stress and trauma from emergency work poses several threats to a first responder’s mind, body, and life. However, their feelings are important, and they should feel like they can talk about their problems and get help, not just to better themselves but to reconcile their emotions with their line of work, as well.