California Program Would Provide Confidential Mental Health Care to First Responders

It is no secret that more first responders lose their lives to suicide rather than in the line of duty. A Ruderman Foundationstudyfound that in 2017, 243 first responders died by suicide compared to 222 who died in the line of duty. It is clear that there is a mental health crisis among our first responders. More and better mental health care is needed to help provide these individuals with the support they need. A new program in San Diego County will hopefully provide that assistance.

Mental Health Stigma

Recognizing the need for mental health care and assistance for their employees, many counties offer some type of program to help. However, the stigma of seeking mental health care still runs rampant through first responder agencies, and many choose not to seek help. Some first responders see mental health care as a sign of weakness and worry about the effects seeking help can have on their careers. It is a difficult balance to maintain, given that the jobs of first responders require a degree of toughness. These individuals often have to put themselves in danger to do their jobs.

A new program proposed by County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher seeks to reduce the stigma and help first responders get the care they need. The program named for Cal Fire Captain Ryan Mitchell, a firefighter who died by suicide in 2017, hopes to overcome the culture where first responders don’t seek help. The program would provide confidential resources that would hopefully eliminate some of the barriers that prevent first responders from seeking treatment. The program also calls for a stigma reduction media campaign aimed at first responders.

The program will also provide assistance to retired first responders. The traumatic nature of public safety can often lead to individuals developing post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD does not disappear just because someone is no longer on the job. Treatment and support are still needed even when an individual has retired. Sometimes the symptoms of PTSD don’t fully manifest until someone has settled into retirement. The hope is that the program will encourage other agencies to improve their mental health care.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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