Officers in the law enforcement community have a lot on their plates. These professionals work tirelessly in demanding — and all-too-often thankless — careers, from those we rely on in a medical emergency to those we trust to protect justice. Is enough being done to make sure they’re protected in the same way we are?
According to a recent study, firefighters commit suicide at a higher rate than those who die in the line of duty. In addition, hundreds of police personnel are thought to commit suicide each year. Attempts and suicidal thoughts have all increased in recent years, which is concerning. They are frequently the result of the trauma and emotional stress brought on by their employment.
First responders are consistently put in dangerous — and often life-threatening — situations in these high-stress, high-risk careers. Physical injuries, unsafe locations, distressing situations, and a variety of other circumstances could all negatively affect their mental health. Long work hours, physical strain, and a lack of sleep are just a few examples of work-related concerns that have been linked to negative outcomes.
As a result of these events, 30 percent of first responders have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other behavioral health disorders, compared to the general population. The stress doesn’t magically disappear when you’re not on the job, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone. Officers and other members of the public safety community may face symptoms such as substance addiction, rage, anxiety, sleeping problems, and digestive problems as a result of PTSD.
Mental health is still stigmatized, despite the fact that people with PTSD have access to resources and counseling. This stigma is widespread in the United States, albeit it is especially prominent in some industries. As a result of these societal and cultural constraints, treatment is usually delayed, leaving public safety personnel to cope with the situation alone.
Fortunately, there are groups striving to educate the public on the importance of mental illness among present and retired first responders. Increased support, therapy, and open communication have resulted from more preventive and educational measures.
Even if peer support is good, professional help is still required. This type of assistance can be obtained from a variety of sources. Despite the fact that public safety professionals have a number of free options, virtual help services are private. There are also phone lines manned by people who are aware of the time and effort required to keep the public safe.
In health care and public safety, we can do so much more to assist our heroes. It begins with all of us working together to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma associated with mental health treatment. The resource below has more information about PTSD in public safety employees.