By Joseph Hunter, M.A.
Many people can go their whole lives without witnessing a traumatic event. However, this can be almost a daily occurrence for first responders. Because of their work, they can develop post-traumatic stress disorder as it can occur after they experience a scary, shocking or dangerous event. Because first responders are exposed to disturbing situations constantly due to their job, they are twice as likely to experience PTSD.
First responders have several risk factors for developing PTSD just because of the nature of their work. These include:
- Having a job that exposes them to traumatic events
- Experiencing intense trauma
- Having feelings of helplessness or fear
- Seeing people get killed or hurt
There are four main symptoms of PTSD:
- Re-experiencing: This includes re-living the event and having flashbacks. Certain triggers can also cause someone to relive the tragedy.
- Avoidance: This entails avoiding places that remind them of the event. The sufferer may also avoid talking or thinking about the occurrence.
- Hyperarousal: This is the feeling of being constantly on edge. It can also mean someone will have a hard time sleeping and difficulty concentrating.
- Negative thoughts and beliefs: This can include feeling distant from other people and staying away from relationships. The sufferer may also feel the world is dangerous and no one can be trusted.
While PTSD alone can be a difficult disorder to overcome, it can also increase the chance of developing other health problems. Depression and anxiety can stem from PTSD along with suicidal thoughts. It can also increase issues with drug and alcohol use.
First responders who are suffering from PTSD can manage their symptoms and even improve their quality of life with the following coping skills:
- Learn more about the disorder to help deal with it
- See a therapist
- Lean on others for help
- Join a support group
- Learn relaxation skills
- Monitor your symptoms
- Take part in positive activities and continue to do regular routines
- Use healthy distraction like reading a book, exercising or watching a movie
- Write down thoughts and feelings
- Be mindful
- Improve physical health
- Be spiritual
Treatment options are available for PTSD including various therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. It is imperative to get professional help right away before it develops into other, more serious, psychological disorders. First responders do critical work daily and should never hesitate to get help they need and deserve.
If you, someone you love or someone you know needs help, call:
Safe Call Now: 24 Hour Confidential Hotline: 206-459-3020
For more information on the First Responders program: Click here
Or call Shannon Clairemont at 661-466-6352 or Vanessa Stapleton at 304-651-3008
Published by armorupnow
Sean Riley is the Founder and President of Safe Call Now, a confidential, comprehensive, 24-hour crisis referral service for public safety employees, all emergency services personnel and their family members nationwide. Safe Call Now was started in 2009 after legislation was passed guaranteeing confidentiality nationwide for all who call the Safe Call Now crisis line that is staffed by current and former first responders.
Sean played baseball for San Diego State University and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Public Administration. He started his law enforcement career as a San Diego County Deputy Sheriff in 1987 and later relocated to Washington State in 1990. Sean spent over 16 years with the Kirkland Police Department. His many accomplishments include being a member of the International Homicide Investigator's Association, Homicide and Sexual Assault Detective, Interview and Interrogation Specialist, D.A.R.E. Officer, Gang Officer and Certified Training Officer. Riley is also credited with solving one of the first ever elder abuse homicide cases in the nation.
Sean's prominent career in law enforcement ended in 2005 when he could no longer hide his "secret" behind the badge. Sean threw away his almost 20-year stellar police career due to alcohol and drug addiction and was headed towards suicide to become just another unknown statistic. In addition to attending college for substance abuse counseling, Sean worked as a supervisor at a local treatment center where he witnessed many public safety employees coming in and out of treatment. Riley decided to do something about it. From his own experience, he knew that first responders wanted to come forward to help, but due to the stigma attached, they would not. Admitting to a substance abuse or mental health problem is perceived as a sign of weakness and could result in the termination from a noble career. By creating a safe and confidential place to reach out for help, first responders are now coming forward in droves from around the nation to better their lives, better their families and better their careers.
Recognized as a dynamic national keynote speaker, Sean travels throughout the country to share his inspirational story. Coupled with cutting edge, interactive training, Riley hits those once thought of as "taboo" or "controversial" topics head-on.
"Safe Call Now provides education, healthy alternatives, resources and a complete continuum of care to save lives and put families back together. Through a collaborative effort, Safe Call Now has discovered when you provide an opportunity for an individual to get their life and their family back, you get one great employee back out serving the public."
- Sean Riley, Founder/President
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