By Vanessa Stapleton – President Armor Up West Virginia
Mental health disorders and addiction are some of the most pressing issues facing the public health system today. Some people are at a greater risk of developing these conditions than others, such as individuals who are exposed to traumatic events. This includes first responders; the first people to show up at the scene of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or serious crime.
Most people cannot fathom what first responders see on a daily basis, therefore it’s common for first responders to not know where to turn for help. As a result, they end up coping in unhealthy ways. This is one of the biggest reasons why first responders end up developing mental health and substance abuse disorders at a higher rate than the average population. For this reason, there are specific addiction treatment centers that focus on the treatment of first responders.
What Does Addiction Treatment Look Like for First Responders?
If someone has been enrolled in addiction treatment for a first responder, the day is going to follow a typical framework. At a residential inpatient facility, the morning will involve a healthy breakfast which can include a mix of meat, grains, and fruit. Then early meetings are going to take place. Meditation, yoga, or other wellness activities are common during this time. After, group meetings are going to take place where first responders can learn from the experiences of others. There will usually be a counselor or therapist leading the group. They help someone learn about the treatment process, addiction, and recovery.
After lunch, there are usually one on one therapy sessions. These sessions are going to be tailored to meet the needs of the individual. For example, someone will participate in cognitive behavioral therapy, an effective method used in the treatment of addiction. This treatment therapy focuses on identifying people’s individual responses to triggers. This will also help prevent relapses from taking place.
Others may participate in specialized sessions. These can be tailored to help someone deal with grief or stress management. More group therapy is also offered at this time of the day or family therapy, helping someone rebuild his or her relationships.
During free time, first responders have the option to enroll in alternative types of therapy. Art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, exercise therapies, and equine therapy, are all great options for first responders.
Dealing with Mental Health Issues
One of the major issues that accompanies addiction in first responders is the development of mental health disorders. Two of the most common mental health disorders that first responders develop are:
PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is one of the most common mental health disorders that develops among first responders. Symptoms include flashbacks, emotional lability, crying fits, trouble sleeping, and anger issues. People suffering from PTSD encounter triggers that transport them back to the scene of the event. PTSD is best addressed by trained professionals who know how to handle these delicate issues.
Depression: Depression is another mental health disorder that develops among first responders. People with depression often have trouble sleeping, feel guilty about past events, experience changes in appetite, and have issues finding enjoyment in activities that previously put a smile on their faces. Depression can be addressed by a well-rounded treatment approach that involves counseling, therapy, and medication. Of course, it’s up to the discretion of trained professionals about what medicine and therapy should be prescribed.
How To Find Treatment for First Responders
It’s critical for anyone who is suffering from mental health or addiction disorders to find treatment. There are a number of ways first responders can find treatment. First, it’s always a good idea to talk to friends and family members. They may know people who have sought out treatment in the past. The internet is also a great tool to research different facilities. The best way to see if a treatment center is right for you is by researching and calling the facility to ask questions.
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