The Effects Trauma Has On First Responders

Imagine working in a profession where you are constantly confronted with new traumas.

Imagine placing yourself in harm’s way on a daily basis, or witnessing lives being lost or forever transformed as a result of violence, tragic accidents, or acts of God. Imagine spending your work week witnessing addiction, homelessness, and mental illness up close, then returning home for the evening.

This is a typical day in the life of a first responder. Is it any surprise that life outside of work, when optimism and cheerfulness are expected, is usually tough to navigate?

Simply said, trauma affects a first responder’s outlook on life on a daily basis. To be able to mitigate the effects of such trauma, you must first be able to recognize them.

How Stress Is Caused

Trauma may be damaging to a person’s psychological and emotional well-being, whether it is experienced firsthand or witnessed. Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are two common mental health presentations (PTSD).

While there are numerous similarities, the most significant differences between ASD and PTSD are the timing and duration of symptoms.

ASD symptoms appear suddenly and might linger for up to a month. If not addressed, PTSD can develop later in life and last for years. Flashbacks, nightmares, sleep loss, and concentration problems are all common symptoms of both diseases.

Many people with PTSD do not access treatment. One study tried to quantify the risk of developing dementia associated with PTSD. A link between PTSD diagnosis and dementia was found not only in veterans and war-refugees, but also in those with non-combat related traumatic experiences.
If your family member is suffering from dementia it’s important to be patient and to be careful what not to say to someone with memory loss. Giving them empathy is a must , both for people with PTSD and dementia.

Other signs and symptoms of ASD include:

  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Avoidance of persons, places, or experiences associated with the trauma

Other signs and symptoms of PTSD include:

  • A general sense of unease or jitteriness
  • A loss of interest in normal activities, hobbies, and relationships
  • A condition of heightened danger aversion
  • Risky and harmful actions

ASD is more commonly connected with dissociative symptoms (such as feeling out of one’s body or suffering memory loss or amnesia) in broad strokes. PTSD patients have more severe mood and cognitive problems, and they frequently relive the trauma.

Psychotherapy (of varied durations) and medication are used to treat both.

Other subtle adversaries exist, such as Compassion Fatigue, which became prominent in the wake of the opioid epidemic and became more well recognized as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. Simply said, first responders become exhausted after witnessing so many accidents. Compassion Fatigue manifests itself in the following ways:

  • Feeling like you are helplessness, hopelessness, irritability, anger, sadness, or numbness
  • Feeling a sense of detachment
  • Anger directed at the events or people who are considered to be responsible for the suffering

Suicide and Substance Abuse in First Responders

Self-medication is a typical response among first responders who are trying to recover from the effects of extended exposure to stressful situations.

PTSD affects one out of every five people in the general population, compared to one out of every three first responders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In the United States, about a third of emergency medical personnel and firemen had pondered suicide, a rate roughly ten times higher than the general population.

First responders are more likely to be depressed than the general population, owing to the fast-paced nature of their jobs and the resulting lack of time to recover between stressful work situations. They also consume more alcohol and tobacco than the overall population.

How Can We Help?

Healthy self-care techniques can help you protect yourself from trauma and recover from it. Simple behaviors like as getting enough sleep, eating good meals, exercising, and meditating, as well as rituals (changing clothes, having a shower) can help to create a clear separation between work and home.

Keep an eye out for individuals who choose to suffer in silence. Too much pride in being thought of as the fiercest and bravest among us might be fatal.

First responders frequently feel compelled to enter their chosen profession. Admitting they have a problem means confessing weakness, and possibly even admitting to themselves that they aren’t capable of handling the job they’ve long fantasized about. Struggling on the job can feel like a test of your identity in that situation.

Those who work in the service industry frequently do not believe they require assistance or find it difficult to ask for it. Worse, those who ask are sometimes stigmatized as a result of their actions. They are told to stop moaning, cope with the situation like the rest of us, and return to work. Aside from the stigma and fear of repercussions at work, the responsibilities of a first responder’s profession make it difficult to take time off to seek therapy.

Even still, without assistance, releasing trauma feelings is challenging. Assistance should be encouraged.

Struggling first responders will learn that trauma isn’t something to get rid of or bury, but something to understand and process if they’re surrounded by support and given therapy — and they won’t feel alone on the job.

Author bio:- Lauren Hoyt is SEO specialist for Galls, LLC, a leading provider of police and public safety uniforms. For over 50 years, Galls has serviced the needs of America’s public safety professionals with a full range of duty gear and apparel from top brands, as well as uniform fittings and customizations.