If you have ever been involved in a life-threatening, dangerous, or tragic situation—you probably have been helped by a first responder.
First responders—such as police officers, emergency responders, corrections officers, and firefighters—are committed to serving the public and helping people in times of extreme crisis.
They are experts at swiftly intervening and offering lifesaving interventions because they do it daily without a second thought. However, when you’re a first responder, this repeated exposure to traumatic events can take its toll.
First responders and their families often know all too well about the long-term consequences and risk factors that can accompany a life of public service in the United States—including mental health issues and substance use disorders.
Being a first responder is truly admirable, and many organizations are devoted to helping first responders and their families manage the stress imposed by their occupation. That stress comes out through drug abuse and addiction in many cases, making health care and substance abuse treatment a must.
To help you navigate mental disorders or addiction to alcohol or drugs—here’s what first responders and their family members need to know about the behavioral health programs and other treatment resources available to them.
Drug Rehab for First Responders, Mental Health Conditions, and Substance Use Disorders
If you are a first responder struggling with a substance use disorder, a mental illness, or a combination of both, you are not alone. According to experts, 85% of first responders have experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition at some point in their careers.
While sometimes a symptom can be transient and pass on its own, other times mental health symptoms can crescendo into serious mental health conditions. First responders, such as law enforcement officers, are more likely to die by suicide than they are to die while performing their job. This is why connecting first responders with treatment resources is of the utmost importance.
Treatment Resources & Drug Rehab for First Responders
As a first responder, you are likely an expert at connecting people with the resources they need. However, you may find it difficult to seek out or locate resources for yourself.
You may feel a sense of shame or embarrassment to acknowledge that you need help for a mental health condition or substance use disorder, especially if you are accustomed to providing support for everyone else.
Asking for help can undoubtedly be a sign of strength. Here are eight treatment resources that can be helpful for first responders struggling with a substance use disorder or mental health condition.
1. International Association of Firefighters (IAFF)
If you are a firefighter who has never heard of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery, make sure to visit their website today.
The IAFF provides customized and job-specific support to firefighters and their families, particularly when it comes to those fire service members who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mental health conditions such as PTSD often run together with other health issues, such as addiction, and the IAFF helps treat all of these conditions in an integrated and thoughtful manner.
Check out their resources page for helpful videos and printed materials, many of which address the specific hardships that have been experienced by first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The IAFF also has a free behavioral health awareness course and other online education modules that are helpful resources for first responders.
2. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a network of free support groups that has helped people with alcohol addiction successfully achieve and sustain sobriety from alcohol for more than 80 years. It connects people who struggle with alcohol addiction, or who have struggled with alcohol addiction in the past, allowing for regular supportive gatherings in the form of meetings.
A structured 12-step program provides the framework for an alcoholic seeking to put back together the pieces of their life that have been stripped away by their substance use disorder. A similar group, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can help people break free from a dependence on opiates and sustain their sobriety, as well.
3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a program under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is dedicated to helping research the problem of drug abuse in the U.S., providing insight on substance use disorders, and compiling a comprehensive map of treatment facilities across the country.
You can use their helpful treatment services locator tool to search within your local area for treatment centers and filter by treatment options. SAMHSA also has several helpful tips for first responders with work-related stress.
4. National Suicide Prevention Hotline
When a first responder suffers from depression, it can feel like an extremely hopeless situation. Depression can cause feelings of extreme sadness and despondence, and people with depression can also experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide. First responders such as law enforcement officers are particularly vulnerable to suicidal thoughts.
Data published by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) indicate that one in four law enforcement officers has experienced suicidal thoughts, and the rate of suicide among law enforcement officers is four times higher than that of firefighters. If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, it’s critical to know that suicide can be prevented.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline has many resources available for people experiencing suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hopelessness. These include support group locators, ideas about building a support network, and making a safety plan.
5. PTSD Foundation of America
One of the most common behavioral health conditions that can afflict a first responder is post-traumatic stress disorder. This is because first responders are constantly being exposed to events that a person within the general population would classify as extraordinarily stressful.
Even though first responders are trained to perform during a stressful situation, this doesn’t mean that witnessing trauma cannot or will not affect them in the future. The Institutes of Health notes that one in three first responders will develop PTSD. The PTSD Foundation of America can help first responders find a community and resources dedicated to overcoming this disorder and living well.
6. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Depending on a first responder’s employer, they may have access to an Employee Assistance Program. This can be a great (and free) resource for people looking for assistance with a behavioral health condition, substance abuse, grief, relationship problems, and many other issues. Their assessments are confidential, and they can connect you with counseling, referrals, and other services, as needed.
7. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Resources for Emergency Health Professionals
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) understands the stress and strain that can come with being a first responder. While the work is rewarding, it is also very challenging because first responders are so exposed to the suffering of others, their work is physically and emotionally intense, and they also risk personal harm on the job. For this reason, the CDC has published several tips for taking care of oneself as a first responder and information about identifying and coping with traumatic incident stress.
8. Professional Drug Rehab for First Responders Programs
For a first responder, it’s essential to get connected with the proper help for a substance use disorder or mental health condition the first time around. Often, first responders who are struggling from a combination of substance use and behavioral health conditions have a difficult time locating the proper resource because their situation doesn’t fit into a single designated “box.”
They may be conflicted about whether to address their opiate dependency or their panic disorder first. Or they may feel that they are in too deep with drugs and alcohol to manage their condition on their own as an outpatient. People who find themselves trying to choose between specific resources may benefit most from a comprehensive professional treatment program.
At the Recovery Team, we offer a mix of evidence-based services, including:
- Residential treatment
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
- Intensive outpatient (IOP)
- Outpatient services (OP)
- Transitional Living
We also offer individual therapy and group therapy that help our clients grow on multiple levels. Our treatment facilities are designed to accommodate a customized recovery program, depending on each person’s specific needs, and each treatment program is tailored to you to ensure success.
How to Find Professional Drug Rehab For First Responders Struggling with a Substance Use Disorder
If you are a first responder in South Florida seeking treatment for a substance use disorder, The Recovery Team can help. For 25 years, we have helped clients safely and comfortably withdraw from alcohol and other substances (including illegal drugs). We also address and manage underlying mental health concerns, beginning recovery in a sustained, satisfying way.
Our comfortable treatment facility is equipped with state-of-the-art offerings designed to make your recovery journey as therapeutic and worry-free as possible.