First Responder Trauma and PTSD

First Responders refer to individuals who are the first on the scene of accidents, human conflict or disasters to render assistance to those affected by the incident. People who are affected can include the casualties, perpetuators and eye-witnessses.

Who are First Responders?

Some examples of First Responders include but are not limited to the police, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and front line workers such as social workers and investigators. These individuals protect and preserve life and in the line of work, they find themselves handling emotionally distressing situations regularly.

We commend and thank these First Responders for their resilience, hard work and efforts.

Mental Distress in First Responders

First Responders are expected to be tough and remain calm even in the most distressing situations. Do you realize that in times of emergency, conflict or disaster, everyone runs away from the source of danger while expecting First Responders to rush in? First Responders are also under close scrutiny of members of the public, who can be harsh when an incident does not turn out well.

However, First Responders are people too – they have their fears, challenges, bad days and also face challenges in other aspects of life such as family and relationships.

As such, to perform well at work, First Responders learn to box up how they feel. Be it trauma from a recent accident they responded to, discouragement over the outcome of a case, or despair over other aspects of life that may not be going well, the First Responder chooses not to think about it and bury the thoughts.

First Responders may feel isolated and attempt to process these thoughts, feelings, trauma and PTSD on their own. This, however, eventually takes a toll on their mental and physical health.

Some of these symptoms can include:

  • Flashbacks, nightmares and recurring thoughts
  • Thoughts of suicide and ending it all
  • Loss of interest in people, hobbies or interests that were once enjoyed
  • Emotional numbness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Problems with addiction, alcohol, drugs, food or any other substance

Challenges of Seeking Help

There are a few reasons why First Responders may not seek help.

One of the main reasons would be that reaching out for help indicates that he/she is not capable or “tough enough” to be a First Responder. This then leads to the worry that the confidence that his/her superiors or team members have in his/her ability to do the job will erode and affect the job stability and progression. Afterall, there seems to be the idea that First Responders are tough through and through.

Reach Out and Seek Help

If you are a First Responder who is reading this, do not let this hinder you from reaching out for help. If you ignore the problems, stress and thoughts that you are experiencing, it will not necessarily get better over time.

By seeking help, it will help you to better process the experiences that you have been through. You can share your thoughts, feelings and difficulties that you have been facing and process this with the counsellor. As you deal with the issues, you will find your mental health improving which in turn will positively change your behaviour. This benefits not just yourself, but those around you – your family, friends, colleagues and loved ones.

Even fighters in the ring take breaks in their respective corners where they catch a breather, receive coaching from the team, ice their wounds and hydrate before the next round. Likewise for yourself, come and seek help, catch a breather from the emotions, thoughts and feelings that you have been bottling up, and you will emerge stronger and more effective.

You are not alone. We are here for you! Make an appointment with us to speak to one of our counsellors.

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