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    First responders are often the first to the scene of a medical emergency or crisis. Though distress and pressure may call forth the valor and bravery first responders embody, being repeatedly exposed to such conditions can weigh heavily on the mind—especially knowing that not every life can or will be saved.

    The term, first responder, refers to anyone trained to respond in an emergency, to include:

    1) Law enforcement officers

    2) Firefighters

    3) Emergency medical responders

    4) Corrections officers

    5) Emergency response dispatchers

    6) Front-line healthcare providers

    Many mental health conditions, including depression, substance use disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) , and even suicidal ideation, are more common among first responders. PTSD causes intense or disturbing thoughts and can greatly inhibit your quality of life if left untreated. Recent studies conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have concluded that 30% of first responders have experienced PTSD.  In addition, of those first responders who have PTSD, 20% have a substance abuse disorder.

    Suicide is also particularly relevant in first responder community. Did you know that law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.  First responders may be at elevated risk for suicide because of the environments in which they work, their culture, and stress, both occupational and personal. The stress can be acute (associated with a specific incident) or chronic (an accumulation of day-to-day stress). Occupational stress in first responders is associated with increased risk of mental health issues, including:

    1) Hopelessness

    2) Anxiety

    3) Depression

    4) Substance misuse and addiction

    5) Post-traumatic stress

    6) Relationship difficulties and divorce

    7) Stress injury and post-traumatic symptoms (sleep problems, flashbacks, heightened reactivity)

    8) Suicidal thoughts

    9) Death by suicide (nearly double that of the national adult average)

    While there is often intensive training to prepare for the physical demands of the job, there is often less emphasis placed on the mental and emotional demands that also accompany it. Not only can the emotional demands negatively impact you, it can also take a toll on your closest relationships. In fact, divorce rates among first responders are higher as compared to other professions.

    Have you been experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms? If so, then it’s time to put your mental health and mental wellness on the front line. You have taken care of and given so much to your community……now it’s time to take care of yourself.

    I am passionate about working alongside our first responder community. My passion comes largely because I lived the life of a wife of a first responder for over 10 years. I know that what you do is more than a job…’s a calling. Blessed are the Peacemakers.

    If you or your partner/spouse is looking for a non-judgmental space to let down and just be you, please reach out to me today.