First Responders and Mental Health

First Responders & Mental Health

Living in the line of duty is rewarding but comes with significant challenges. These providers are constantly exposed to traumatic events and life-threatening situations. Due to the emergency calls stress and social stigmas, first responders commonly pay a hefty price regarding their mental health. 

The impact of responding to daily tragic circumstances can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and an elevated risk of suicide. Additionally, first responders are more likely to experience cardiovascular events due to high levels of stress hormones.

According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, 85% of first responders have experienced symptoms related to mental health issues. An alarming number. Even more worrisome is that 57% confessed to fear negative repercussions for seeking help. As Trophy Club’s EMS Coordinator, Captain Shane Beck, said, “One sure way of hearing crickets in a room is to ask field providers to discuss their feelings.” The result is first responders deciding to handle mental health problems on their own. 

It’s crucial that departments foster a healthy culture around psychological wellbeing. Research shows that training programs can improve mental health and behavioral health care utilization among first responders. Departments carry responsibility for making systemic changes rather than expecting their personnel to become more resilient. “Providers must understand that maintaining mental wellness requires a support network and the acknowledgment that we are all human with emotions. Personal experiences and emotions are essential components of what makes a great first responder,” notes Captain Beck.

Help Resources

  • UTHealth Trauma and Resilience Center provides free mental health counseling via telehealth for first responders and their families. To get set up for services immediately, call 713-486-2630.
  • 3FTL, an organization based in Prosper, provides a comprehensive mental health treatment team that supports and guides first responders. 
  • Responder Strong is a mental health resource map for responder-informed crisis, clinical services, and educational content.
  • Mental Health First Aid is a trusted, evidence-based, and early-intervention training program for Fire and EMS. 
  • First HELP reduces mental health stigma for First Responders through education, advocating for benefits, assisting officers in their search for healing, and bringing awareness to suicide and mental health issues.
  • 1st Responder Conferences presents a yearly two-day multifaceted training around first responders’ mental health and wellness. 

If you need urgent help, call 988 (National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline) or (206) 459-3020 (Safe Call Now). Both services operate 24/7 nationwide and are confidential and free.

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