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Emergency responders face mental health trauma

There are many jobs that are stressful, but some have stressors that are more emotional than physical. Workers who are first responders face both mental and physical stress that can lead to mental health breakdowns that can have a negative impact on their ability to work, as well as their entire life.

Suicide, depression, anxiety and other similar issues, are, unfortunately, common among first responders. The very people who others call when they have emergencies are slowly succumbing to the stress and other problems that come with the demands of the job.

Mental health problems

Exposure to trauma is the number one reason why emergency responders suffer from conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. While more than 90 percent of police officers and around 80 percent of firefighters reported being exposed to a traumatic event, only around 49 percent were offered a form of psychological first aid after the incident. Around 85 percent of emergency responders have experienced mental health condition symptoms.

Among the general population in this country, the lifetime risk for an adult to develop post-traumatic stress disorder is around 3.5 percent. Interestingly, around 34 percent of emergency responders have been diagnosed with the condition. That shows the sharp increase in this issue among this demographic.

Challenges to getting help

There are many reasons why emergency responders might find it difficult to get the mental health help they need. They can worry about how seeking help might appear to others. There is a need for some workers in this field to appear strong, which they feel might be undermined by seeking help.

Some worry about how their career advancement might be affected by seeking help. They might also have trouble accessing the services they need. Only around 3 to 5 percent of the country's 18,000 law enforcement agencies have training programs that focus on suicide prevention. The often unpredictable schedule of these workers can also have a negative impact on their ability to get help.

Emergency responders who are showing signs of mental health issues shouldn't let anything stop them from seeking assistance. Instead, they should speak up about what they are going through before things get too bad.

When mental health conditions become debilitating, the worker might qualify for workers' compensation benefits that include medical bill payments and partial wage replacement if the person is unable to return to work.

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