Police, EMS, firefighters and other first responders have rewarding and important jobs. However, first responders are often exposed to traumatic scenes that can affect their ability to cope. In the first responder community, there have been countless lives lost to suicide. In 2017, more firefighters lost their lives to suicide than in the line of duty. These suicides are often caused by an underlying mental health issue resulting from traumatic stress.
There is evidence that first responders resist seeking mental health care because of the stigmatization and the fear of looking weak in their community. There is a fear of being the subject of ridicule and putting your job at risk by admitting that you need help. These issues are often perpetuated by those who lack a clear understanding of mental illness. It is important for the agencies where these officers work to support their employees and help them access the care they need.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has put together an online training coursethat addresses the occupational stressors faced by first responders. The course also addresses mental health and substance abuse issues including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, it teaches healthy coping mechanisms. This online course should be utilized by police and fire departments in assisting their employees in recognizing mental health issues and encouraging them to find help. SAMHSA's websiteincludes a number of different trainings and resources.
Employee Assistance Programs
The departments that hire and train first responders should also actively promote mental health awareness and work toward eliminating the stigma of receiving mental health care. Providing employee assistance programs can help change a department’s attitude towards mental health and give employees access to the care they need.
Safe Call Now
Safe Call Nowat (206) 459-3020 is a 24/7 hotline specifically for first responders and their families. Callers to the hotline can speak confidentially to other first responders trained in mental health crisis counseling. These counselors can help with exploring treatment options for responders in a crisis.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifelineat 800-273-8255 is available 24/7. Calls to the Lifeline are confidential and trained crisis counselors can help you and provide you with information regarding mental health care providers in your area.
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 illnesses. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.