PTSD in first responders is an estimated at ten to thirty percent nationwide. Recent studies have shown that many first responders are prone to cumulative PTSD. That is, with each incident that affects the psyche in a negative manner, the brain files this information away as not to interfere with the current situation. This is a coping mechanism that keeps our first responders going from day to day.
After twenty or even a thirty-year tenure as a first responder, the small things add up. An estimate of 6.6% of first responders have attempted suicide. Why? First responders work between twelve and twenty-four-hour shifts. They work weekends, holidays, their children’s birthdays, and through that family reunion, Aunt Gertrude has been planning for months. These long hours are just the beginning. Let’s take a closer look at each of the departments.
Police departments handle high-stress situations. Patrol officers are on constant alert when out on patrol. They see scenes of devastating car crashes and crime scenes aren’t a pretty sight. Detectives keep heavy workloads and work hard for families who are looking for answers. They have to battle between what they know and what information they can release to the family. This is only the tip of the department iceberg. These officers cannot go home and talk to their families about their days at work due to various laws enacted. This takes it toll on an officer.
Right beside a cop in high-stress situations is a paramedic. Paramedics have to go into a situation where they need police protection to get their patient out of danger. They put their lives at risk to save others. On top of these high-stress situations and much more frequently is the patient that doesn’t make to the hospital and dies in the back of the ambulance. The paramedic may take this hard and even feel guilty or that there was more they could do to save someone.
Firefighters are more certainly not to be left out. Not only do they go into blazing fires to pull people from the flames, they also act in the stead of a paramedic. You will be hard pressed to find a firefighter that these days who is not trained to respond to medical calls. They also see devastating car crashes and help people that get into some pretty awkward predicaments.
How the public can help
Line of duty deaths apply to all three of the first responder branches. So what can the public do to help? Remind them that you stand behind them. Thank them for keeping the communities safe. Lift their spirits. They may have heard the same sentiment five times on the same day but each time serves as a reminder to why they serve. Why they can make it through another day.
A few years ago, my son was having nightmares about firetrucks bringing fires. We took him to the fire station. They happened to be emptying the trucks of water. The water glistened in the light. The look of love in the firefighters’ eyes was unforgettable when he squealed, “Firetrucks shoot rainbows!” It made their day. Show our first responders you love them and save a first responder today.