Signs of Depression in First Responders

By Dr. Keith L. Marshall, Psy.D.

Everyone else is running away from the fire or danger, but you’re charging right towards it. Gunfire rings out in a crowded park, people scatter, and someone gets shot, but you run toward the sound of the shots and help the victim.

First responders such as police, fire fighters and medical emergency professionals, are some of the bravest people — A first responders is trained to face danger and sometimes manage the most horrifying events. They help people who otherwise cannot protect themselves or help themselves.

But who is looking out for you the first responder? Who is helping you manage your mental and emotional health?

Most people in society will react or respond to fight or flight responses on a limited basis, however fire, police, and many other medical emergency professionals, often deal with these natural responses daily. The long term psychological and emotional stress first responders deal with could eventually lead to depression. Furthermore, symptoms such depression, could be an antecedent causing or leading to disruptions work, family, and social relationships.

Signs of Depression

Depression manifests itself differently in every individual, but it can affect one’s ability to work, sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities.

  1. Persistent sad and anxious or empty feelings
  2. Feelings of hopelessness
  3. Feeling restless, irritable and discontented
  4. Fatigue
  5. Lack of interest in sex
  6. Thoughts of suicide
  7. Difficulty concentrating
  8. Insomnia or Excessive sleeping
  9. Over-eating or loss of appetite
  10. Physical stress
  11. Excessive drinking or chemical use

Most often police, fire, and emergency professionals have a higher risk of suffering from depression than other professions due to the nature of their jobs and the environments they operate in. Most often these professionals are stuffing and holding their emotions in, or “sucking it up” for lack of a better term, to stay professional and calm during the emergency.

Unfortunately, “sucking it up” and repressing the feelings could have potential to manifest in unhealthy behaviors. We all seek relief from negative feelings, it’s our instinct to act in compensatory measures look to ameliorate the internal stress. ALL POLICE, FIRE, and EMERGENCY professionals

Be alert and stay alert and take care of yourselves. Our world needs you, and know that we are here to help you. Dr. Keith L. Marshall, Psy.D.

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