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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Emergency Responders

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Emergency Responders

We have all heard about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident, or natural disaster. But sometimes, PTSD is common in certain professions, like police, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, and even mental health workers. According to the American Psychological Association, people with PTSD may relive the trauma of an event through memories, flashbacks, and nightmares; avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma; and have anxious feelings they didn’t have before they experienced the trauma. People who spend a large amount of time dealing with these effects and find they are interfering with some aspect of their lives may need to consider getting professional help.

One of the professions that For All Seasons supports in coping with PTSD is Emergency Medical Services  (EMS) personnel, who can be at high risk for PTSD. An interview with Brian LeCates, Acting Director of Talbot County Emergency Services, explores some of the reasons EMS workers face some of the highest levels of stress in their profession and the importance of their mental health in responding to emergency calls.

LeCates explains that public safety personnel (EMS, 911, Firefighters, and Law Enforcement Officers) are typically the frontline personnel interacting with someone having a personal crisis (i.e. suicidal behavior or other behavioral crisis) 24 hours a day.

“Our dispatchers are often the first person someone talks to when calling for help on their worst day and are dedicated to helping these individuals get the help they need while also being the calm voice on the other end of the phone. Our arriving responders are trained to diffuse situations and dedicated to helping these individuals get the resources they need to not harm themselves and others around them,” he states.  

EMS clinicians responding to the calls can be regularly exposed to a great deal of physical and mental trauma. Living in such a small community, at times, Talbot County EMS clinicians know their patients and their families which can cause another layer of stress and reality.

“Incidents at times can be extremely relatable to our clinicians’ personal lives as well, such as providing care to a critically ill or injured child, while they have their own child at home. Sometimes it is hard to remove yourself and not correlate incidents to your personal life. It is a learned skill to remove yourself from the crisis you respond to in order to provide the highest, most professional level of care. Over time, this can take a mental toll on our clinicians,” LeCates adds.

Another important issue facing EMS providers is preserving their mental health to continue to provide high-quality care for the community. The mental health of first responders allows them to answer calls and arrive on the scene to perform their jobs. For All Seasons has played a role in helping EMS workers deal with some of the strain of their jobs.

“For All Seasons professionals can debrief and defuse situations amongst responders and the community after significant emergencies where tragedy has occurred, providing critical incident stress management. In addition, they also provide one-on-one services for EMS workers having difficulties coping with the long-term effects of traumatic calls,” states LeCates.

During the pandemic, LeCates states that EMS responders have seen an increase in the number of individuals having mental health issues. Responders always encourage citizens to ask for help, speak to professionals, and seek resources to help better themselves or their loved ones when a mental health crisis arises.  

“I believe socializing and making the community aware of how prevalent mental health issues are in our communities will help decrease the stigma around the issues over time. This has never been more important than now,” he adds.