Providing care for others in the event of disaster, accident, crime, or terrorist attack requires resilience. For first responders, this is their daily life and routine. No matter how they feel that day, they have to show up strong and ready to rescue and provide medical care and emotional support. The nature of their job is intense because they are on the front line, meaning they experience the traumatic events firsthand. Due to this, they are likely to suffer from first responder trauma.
When COVID-19 struck, the rest of the world retrieved to safe places. But the emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, and members of the Red Cross were on the frontline giving healthcare to people amid fear, uncertainty, anxiety, and stress. Experiencing these life-threatening situations impacts people differently. And the feeling of helplessness and defeat can be overwhelming.
As a first responder, you may suffer burnout, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), and work-related stress due to exposure to disturbing events.
Taking care of your emotional well-being and mental health is key to ensuring you remain resilient and effective in your career. So, you must understand how to cope with the first responder trauma you experience when helping those in crisis. This article will discuss first responders’ challenges in their jobs, first responder addiction treatment, and valuable mental health and wellness tips.
The Unique Challenges of First Responders
First responders undergo rigorous training to prepare them for their jobs. Unlike other professionals, first responders are constantly exposed to traumatic events and life-threatening conditions. At the same time, they work long hours away from their families, friends, and loved ones, which can feel lonely, exhausting, and emotionally overwhelming.
A recent survey by the University of Phoenix showed that 85% of first responders have experienced symptoms related to mental health conditions.
These figures show the risks first responders brave every day in their job as they mask their struggles for the well-being of others. Their hardships are often overlooked, and when they can no longer cope, some turn to drugs and others commit suicide to end the trauma. These kinds of struggles also explain the rising cases of heavy drinking and alcohol addiction among first responders.
Also, many of them struggle with the guilt of losing their colleagues or the people they help. They battle the feeling of failure — that they could have done something to save lives, maybe arrive a little earlier. Worse still, life after casualties is never easy. It leaves first responders with emotional trauma, pain, grief, and sometimes physical injuries.
As a first responder working in these mentally and physically demanding environments, it is vital to make sure work-related stress doesn’t take a toll on your health. You can get help with first responder trauma and first responder addiction treatment at any reputable treatment center specializing in first responder wellness.
Mental Health and Wellness Tips for First Responders
Although their job can be highly stressful, first responders are so crucial in the community. It is essential that they are in good mental and physical health to perform their roles as well as possible. Here are some tips to help you or your loved one cope with the mental, emotional, and physical problems incurred by first responder job stress.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Because of your busy schedule, it may be tempting to grab something from a nearby fast-food restaurant. While this may seem convenient, such meals have high-fat levels and lack essential vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and fiber that your body needs to function well and stay healthy.
It is important to prioritize a healthy diet with a good balance of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a healthy diet should be low in saturated fats, have a variety of protein foods, and stay within your daily calorie needs. Such food is ideal for keeping your body fit and prepared for physically demanding roles in your line of duty.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, you need regular workouts and physical exercise such as running or swimming. As a firefighter, police officer, or EMT, you need to be in good shape to respond swiftly to emergencies.
Since lifting heavy weights, running, climbing, and pulling may be part of your daily routine, your body needs to be flexible and fit to avoid onsite injuries such as sprains and strains. You can achieve this through regular exercise. Form a routine workout plan, including muscle-strengthening exercises and stretches to help prevent such injuries.
Also, make sure you spend time relaxing whenever you are not working. It helps reduce muscle tension and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. Relaxation also reduces stress and symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Spend Time With Friends and Family
Working long hours and witnessing painful experiences such as deaths can be lonely and emotionally traumatizing. As those feeling build-up, you may end up suffering from stress or depression. It is essential to know that your family and friends are your first support system. Talking to them can give you relief and disrupt your mind from painful events.
Also, spending time with those you love, celebrating special occasions, and going for vacations together can help you create beautiful memories and moments you can look forward to. Take time off work, engage with family, participate in social activities, and do what makes you happy.
Take Breaks From Information and Gadgets
Learn to occasionally shut everything down and focus on other things that are fun and relaxing. Disconnect from TV, social media, the computer, and your mobile phone for a moment to get in touch with important people in your life. Remember, the internet and social media are full of negativity and devastating news, which may worsen your struggles.
Turning those things off gives you time to reflect with a clear and open mind.
The body can heal itself naturally. It pays attention to the signs and alerts you whenever you need a change in dangerous or unpleasant circumstances. You can only respond to your body by being mindful of such signals and acting accordingly.
Mindfulness techniques such as gratitude, meditation, and rest help you go through your day with ease and positivity. Practicing mindfulness is a skill that needs to be cultivated daily. Mindfulness can help you manage stress in the moment and increase your resilience for future engagements.
Treatment for First Responder Trauma
Seeking help is the first step toward healing. The truth is, many more first responders are battling mental health issues than those who seek treatment. Some shy off for fear of stigma, job loss, or other related factors. A University of Phoenix survey shows that 57% of first responders feel negative repercussions for seeking help, and 40% are hesitant for fear of being fired or demoted.
If you or your loved one is experiencing first responder trauma or mental health symptoms, you need to seek help from a psychotherapist. You can also enroll in a first responders treatment program such as the Help for Our Heroes Program at Transformations Treatment Center. Some of the symptoms of first responder trauma include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Anxiety, uncertainty, or denial
- Burn out and tiredness
- Irritation and anger
- Lack of motivation
- Feeling overwhelmed or helpless
- Feeling sad
- Trouble concentrating
Seek Help Now!
While taking care of the well-being of others is noble and fulfilling, you need to take care of yourself first to execute your duties well. If you or your loved one is suffering from first responder trauma or needs addiction treatment, Transformations Treatment Center can help. Contact us today for specialized treatment tailored for your unique needs.
Call our hotline at (888) 919-2561 now! Our admissions specialists are standing by to assist you.