You just worked a 24-hour workday, and not only is your body hurting you as a first responder. Your first responder mental health is raging out of control. You are beginning to feel ashamed and dismissed for even starting to feel this way.
For first responders and firefighters, the most critical part of remaining effective and active on the job is maintaining ideal mental wellness. When experiencing continuous life-threatening circumstances, the physical strain of working long, sleepless hours, and trauma though, a first responder’s mental health can be negatively impacted. Once that occurs, it increases the risk that first responders will start abusing substances to cope, and in turn, need first responder addiction treatment.
What are the Various Positive Aspects of the Job?
It’s pivotal to note that there are several positive aspects of a first responder job. The following can contribute in a positive way to a first responder mental health. Finding balance when the negative problems begin to outweigh the positive is crucial to maintaining a first responder mental health.
- A positive and productive atmosphere at the workplace
- Positive relationships with coworkers
- Important and meaningful work
- Livable benefits and wages
What is the Relationship Between Alcohol Use and Police Officers?
As a result of police officers’ occupation, alcohol use is destined to form a relationship. They face a huge deal of trauma and stress daily. In addition to experiencing the threat of physical harm, numerous officers witness disturbing and devastating events.
There are many individuals in law enforcement who experience work-related stress additionally regarding their reception and roles in their communities. Police officers are at a greater risk of drug abuse than the general population. They are also at a higher risk of overall alcohol abuse. The risk is worsened by the fact that several cops have easy access to illegal drugs when they respond to overdose calls or when drug dealers are arrested.
What is the Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Firefighters?
Firefighters spend their days braving collapsing and burning buildings in order to save numerous civilian lives. The same traumatic psychological risks that police officers undergo are similar to firefighter risks. Their additional physical risks include:
- Smoke inhalation
- On the job injuries
- Lung damage
- Severe burns
The traumatic calls and long 24 hour shifts lead numerous firefighters to develop mental health conditions such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Acute stress disorder
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that about 29% of firefighters actually engage in alcohol abuse. As many as 10% of firefighters might be abusing prescription drugs currently.
The rates of heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking among firefighters are higher than the general population. Similarly to police officers, there are numerous social factors that contribute to the high rates of dangerous alcohol consumption.
Among the following are:
- “Fire-station” culture
- Acts of camaraderie
- Peer support
There are several firefighters who reported utilizing alcohol as a means for “winding down” and managing the stress of emergency calls. Apart from seeking support from family and friends, in a 2017 survey, alcohol use was reported to be the second leading coping strategy of firefighters.
What is the Relationship Between Substance Use and Paramedics?
Paramedic and EMT relationships with substance abuse deprive from the occupations themselves. EMTs and paramedics are considered emergency medical service technicians that are dispatched to the scene of an emergency that includes traumatic incidents such as:
- Personal injuries
Additionally to serving 24-hour shifts, EMTs are responsible for their patients’ life and death decisions. These professionals have to face several occupational hazards Like firefighters and police officers, they are also at a higher risk of developing mental stress-related disorders than the general population.
According to SAMSHA, about 72% of EMTs suffer from sleep deprivation and 36% of EMT workers suffer from depression. Over 20% of EMTs suffer from PTSD. PTSD is a mental health disorder that’s triggered by a certain terrifying event.
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are:
- Uncontrollable thoughts about the event
- Flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety
All of the above-mentioned factors put individuals at a greater risk of substance abuse occurring. Drug abuse is much greater among EMTs and paramedics compared to other emergency responder professions. Though the research is limited and hasn’t fully revealed why that is, it is believed to be a combination of factors including high-stress exposure levels and easy access to addictive and potent prescription medications. The trauma and stress that this particular industry suffers from drive numerous professionals toward substance abuse in an attempt to cope with the serious psychological pressure that they experience daily.
What is the Relationship Between Emergency Respondents and Addiction?
Emergency responders are considered to be first on the scene of some of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances, providing instant support, medical assistance, and care to the survivors in aftermath of a disaster or crime. The heroic duties are crucial to society, but they can be extremely demanding and emotionally draining to those in their profession.
Continual exposure to life-threatening situations and the physical strain of working long hours under traumatic conditions have the potential to impact a first responder’s mental health negatively.
What do Emergency Responders Include:
- Emergency medical services
- Police officers
These industry professionals are regularly exposed to many situations that other individuals would not be able to bear emotionally, increasing the overall risk of mental health disorders. It is estimated that 30% of first responders develop behavioral health conditions during their specific time of service such as:
- Post-traumatic disorder
Despite the unquestionable importance surrounding mental health in a first responder profession, there still is a cultural stigma revolving around mental health care treatment. There is fear of appearing not up to standard and being seen as weak. All of these fears keep first responders from seeking help and can lead struggling responders to turn to substance abuse as a relief.
When an individual turns to drugs or alcohol for self-medicating purposes, they are more likely to become dependent on it, rather than a person who is a recreational user. As a matter-of-fact, 50% of individuals who struggle with mental health disorders are thought to be affected by addiction. Due to severe trauma and stress, it’s extremely common for emergency responders to develop co-occurring substance use disorders (SUDs) and overall mental health.
How is Mental and Culture Health Treatment in Society?
First responder addiction treatment in the United States and mental health disorders are fundamentally based on scientific evidence and research that is repeatable and objective. Awareness is spread, treatments are updated, and differences among patients treatments or combinations of treatments are exposed through the following areas:
- The self-correcting process that comes with diverse and new research methods
- Transparency of publication in journals research
- Peer review of findings
The United States is considered the melting pot of cultures, therefore it becomes vital to discuss the remarkable impact that an individual’s personal experience and culture have on the following areas:
- The development of the first responder mental health symptoms
- Willingness and ability to seek first responder addiction treatment
- Follow through with first responder addiction treatment
- Benefit from treatment services that are applied often to the care of various diagnoses
What Does the Culture of the United States Include?
The culture of the United States includes beliefs, values, and views that a person holds as “normal” which can thoroughly impact the choices and experiences of a client, the client’s community and family, the clinician, as well as the body of work informing treatment. Other cultural issues additionally can contribute to a decreased or increased ability to benefit and access from numerous mental health treatment options.
The following issues work effectively with various clinicians. It’s important to take all of the below issues into consideration when determining what will be the best course of action for first responder addiction treatment.
- Professional culture
- Economic status
- Religious views
- Gender and race
How is the Stigma of Mental Illness in the US?
In the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there is a stigma against individuals who are living with mental illnesses in the United States. This plays a significant issue. For example, only 24.6% of participants who were living with a mental illness thought that others would care about their struggle. This same study, fortunately, discovered that 57.3% of first responders who were not struggling with mental health symptoms believed that others were sympathetic to their issue.
It’s possible to decipher these results as first responder mental health-related individuals can have underestimated the overall sympathetic nature of the general population when it comes to individuals suffering from mental health issues. Furthermore, the study also discovered that almost 77.6% of those living with mental health symptoms, and almost 88.6% of individuals not living with mental health issues, believed that first responder addiction treatment could help that person in living a “normal” and balanced life.
What Do These Findings Suggest?
- Increased incidences of low self-esteem and depression, along with increased judgment among individuals living with mental health symptoms
- The decreased likelihood that family members will admit another family member’s struggles of a sign of anything more than “normal” or a passing phrase, especially among first responders, given the nature of their jobs.
- Increased attempts to self-medicate an individual’s mental health symptoms through alcohol and drugs rather than seeking treatment.
- Lower rates of individuals in need of treatment-seeking out help due to experiencing judgment by other people.
- Less support for those in recovery from mental illness, whether that be professional, in the community, among peers, or first responder mental health reasons.
How is the Stigma of First Responder Mental Health Lessening?
The stigma of first responder mental health plans to lessen as The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), along with many other mental wellness agencies increases awareness and dispels myths. Stigmas can decrease by becoming aware of the knowledge that there are many different personal experiences of individuals who live with those mental health symptoms.
A huge way that SAMSA is working to increase support and compassion for individuals living with mental health symptoms is by advocating the development of social inclusion services and peer support for people and first responders, along with their families.
These services provide the following:
- People in recovery and their families a place to connect with other individuals who are experiencing similar struggles
- Allow the public to step forward, offer others support, and ultimately share their experiences
- Increase an overall understanding of first responder addiction treatment and other mental disorders
- Individuals in recovery with a forum to share their experiences safely
For firefighters, families, and first responders mental health, the stigma against mental health issues can be a challenging obstacle for first responder addiction treatment. The act of not wanting to draw attention to the mental health issues of first responders and preferring to focus on their jobs instead. By not wanting to acknowledge the fact that the first responders need first responder addiction treatment, or that their first responder mental health symptoms can be complicating their ability to function mentally or physically, a greater issue is formed.
How is First Responder Addiction Treatment Improving?
First responder addiction treatment is improving despite the preventive behavioral health taking a while to gain comprehensive scale traction. The upsurge in education helps provide prevention efforts across many support organizations for active first responders and firefighters, as well as retired veterans. This includes organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association which has helped increase awareness of how common first responder mental health issues are. This has improved access to appropriate treatment and care.
What Are Some First Responder Addiction Treatment Options?
First responder addiction treatment options have been proven to significantly benefit first responders, especially when combined with others with similar occupations.
- Outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Drug and alcohol detox
- Nutritional therapy
- 12-Step Programs
- Individual therapy
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
First Responder Addiction Treatment Awaits at Harmony Place
Seeking first responder addiction treatment can present itself to be extremely difficult. Especially for first responders who are used to helping others, not getting help. However, the saying is true, you have to take care of yourself first before you can help others.
We understand that “Because of the extreme things we see in our everyday line of duty…It’s easy to develop an ‘us-and-them’ attitude. It’s very tempting to want to stay with those who understand – and soon family and friends can even be excluded. We have to watch out for that.”
-Retired Fire Captain Michael Morse
It’s important to be aware if you are beginning to push away your family and friends. So it’s essential to give it diligent effort in maintaining positive relationships with them. The stress and trauma that emergency responders face daily, can present to be debilitating. It ultimately pushes industry professionals to engage in substance abuse. If you are a first responder in need of addiction treatment, contact us today.