The war within: Mental health issues in first responders.
Each Day, a select group of people wake up to answer the call of saving a stranger's life. These brave men and women put their own lives on the line to make sure that their community is safe each day. With the growing potential for traumatic events in daily life, the mental health crisis has been an increasing problem for first responders. First responders are experiencing mental health issues due to everyday job stressors therefore they should be given more resources to treat their mental health issues.
When people think of mental health issues most people think of PTSD. PTSD is short for Post- traumatic stress disorder. PTSD effects many various parts of the brain but one of the most effected parts of the brain is the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the main source of memory. This part of the brain allows for a person to be able to recall their memories later. The hippocampus is also one of the most key players in PTSD. Another region of the brain effected by trauma is the amygdala, this region of the brain helps understand our feelings and process them so. According to Viatcheslav Wlassoff, "Hyperactivity of the amygdala is positively related to the severity of PTSD symptoms. The said developments explain the tell-tale signs of PTSD - startle responses to the most harmless of stimuli, frequent flashbacks, and intrusive recollections." When first responders go into very intense situations such as vehicle crashes, suicides, and natural disaster's they may experience a lasting memory that can cause problems in their day to day lives. Some of the situations that these heroes go into may become extremely personal, such as a death of a child or suicide. This may result in the responder making a personal connection that may trigger a lasting memory for them.
Mental Illness may not be the only problem our first responders face. According to Mission Harbor Behavioral health," 40% of EMTs engage in the high-risk use of drugs and alcohol". Alcohol dependence has become a big danger for first responders, which in turn can cause for life threatening situations such as drunk driving and suicidal thoughts or actions. A development of PTSD or Acute stress disorder may also introduce alcohol or drug abuse to cope with the side effects of the PTSD. Many first responders bond together after experiencing the same traumatic events and this can lead to social drinking with one another.
Police officer, Fire Fighters and Emergency Medical Technicians are exposed to death and destruction daily. According to a study done by The University of Phoenix, "85 percent of first responders have experienced symptoms related to mental health issues, and one in three (33 percent) have received a formal diagnosis of a mental health disorder, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder." These individuals are put through months or even years of specialized training to make sure that they can supply the best level of care to their patients. One thing that many of these individuals have not been conditioned to do is deal with the war within that they may experience along the way. Many first responders are a part of unions that are aimed in protecting them from any incidentals that may happen while they are working for their county or company. One of the country's biggest union is the International Association of Fire Fighters, this association has a large task force that is available 24/7 to help any responder that needs someone to talk to or supplies resources for treatment against alcoholism or drug abuse. There is an immensely powerful quote displayed on the IAFF website that says, "We are great at taking care of the public, but we are not so great at taking care of ourselves." Many responders say that they feel as though they must always be mentally tough even though it may be hard.
We may never know how many first responders may take their lives every year. In 2016 "The Badge Life” reported that 108 police officers had taken their own lives. The “Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance" around 113 paramedics and firefighters had taken their own lives in 2015. The problem with these numbers is that there is no real place for these deaths to be reported. Asa Don Brown, Author of "First responders and mental health, and a retired firefighter, gives a great word of advice stating, "Furthermore, we must begin to eliminate this egregious stigmatization and discrimination by bringing an awareness of the normalcy of mental health."
Many organizations such as the "Code Green Campaign" are focused on bringing more awareness to the mental health for first responders. The code green campaign was started in 2014 after one of the founders experienced a suicide of his fellow officer, with this he set out to make sure that growing problem of mental illness did not go unrecognized. This campaign has also been on the fore front of trying to create a national data base to record all the suicides among first responders. One main aspect of the code green campaign is their discussion board which "has the benefit of letting other first responders read the stories and know they’re not alone and it isn't unusual to experience these issues" (Code Green Campaign). These discussion boards are filled with horror stories of calls that these responders have been a part of in their pasts, many stories reveal that these people take home the burden of the calls they respond too. This allows other responders dealing with their own issues to know that they are not alone, and it has the potential to be a resource for these people with similar struggles to connect and help each other.
Treatment options and resources are becoming more available for first responders. Resources such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the national suicide prevention hotline are both retally available for any struggling person battling mental illness or substance abuse. There are also multiple treatment clinics that are available to help first responders. When these individuals start treatment, they are put on a plan that allows them to learn better coping solutions than drinking and drug usage. When treatment has been completed many of these clinics also offer many transitioning workshops to allow for a better transition into their work setting. With this in place many first responders have been able to live happy lives with little struggle. There are also multiple pharmaceutical options for treatments such as, mood stabilizing medications, anti-anxiety medications, and antidepressants.
With the growing potential of developing Mental Health Issues, first responders should be given more resources to deal with any issues that they may face. First responders are asked to put their own personal lives on pause to make sure that the public is taken care of at any expense. There may never be a perfect solution on Mental Health Issues but providing reliable resources can be a significant game changer for everyone. With reliable resources for first responders it may give them a better fighting chance to continue to do the job they love and take care of themselves. With better resources so many lives could be saved, and this will result to having healthier hero's when we need them the most. I was looking for exemplification essay topics to do my own one. This website contains a rich database of templates, and they are free to use. I read them and coped with my paper.