By any measure, 2018 has been a difficult year for firefighters and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel. Firefighters in California battled the worst fire season on record, and EMS personnel were on hand during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, not to mention several high-profile mass shootings. This month we are focusing on the needs of these brave first responders.
Firefighters and EMS workers are often the first on the scene to not only witness an accident, injury or shocking event, but also deal with the emotional repercussions – both within themselves and their community. They are on the frontlines of emergency calls and, because one in five Americans has a mental illness, are likely to encounter someone in crisis. Over time, that takes a toll. First responders are more likely than members of the general public to develop behavioral health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
That’s why the National Council for Mental Wellbeing introduced the Mental Health First Aid for Fire/EMS module to provide a fundamental understanding of the common mental health challenges experienced by first responders and the skills to identify and respond to someone who may be in crisis. The program also teaches post-crisis strategies for first responders to better assess and access support for themselves, their colleagues and community members.
This month, you can help #BetheDifference for our first responders. Here are some things you can do.
Mental Health First Aiders are making a difference in communities across the country every day. Thank you for continuing to #BetheDifference in yours.