During the pandemic, local paramedics, police officers, firefighters and other first responders have stepped up to the plate, working hard to safeguard our lives, our homes and our businesses. Our state emergency response team is a Florida Division of Emergency Management providing disaster services, including coronavirus monitoring, to FL residents.
These emergency service workers are on the frontline of the health crisis, dedicating their careers to servicing our country and supporting our communities and include:
- Police officers
- Correctional officers
- 911 operators
- Emergency room medical staff
- HAZMAT technicians
The challenges they face on a daily basis get compounded with traumatic events, long work hours, life-threatening situations on the job, and extra stresses placed on their professional and personal relationships. This continual physical and psychological strain has a negative impact on their overall mental health increasing the risk of substance abuse and addiction among this segment of the population.
SAMHSA estimates that about 30 percent of first responders develop anxiety, depression, PTSD and other mental health illnesses, compared to 20 percent of the general population. Unfortunately, they don’t always have time to focus on their own self-care and well-being.
These heroes are going the extra measure of fighting for our freedom during the COVID-19 catastrophe. It’s time we return the favor and fight for them by giving them options and resources for coping with grief after traumatic events.
Health Crisis Increasing Risk of Substance Use
We have a cultural expectation that certain people in the public sector are clean, sober and always on top of things. This assumption is especially true for our rescue workers and emergency response teams.
Due to the high-stress nature of their job duties, this segment of the population faces an increased risk of being affected by behavioral health, substance abuse or co-occurring mental health and addiction issues. Maintaining optimal health and wellness, while limiting adverse outcomes such as disturbed sleep, distress or worry, is an important part of remaining active and effective while on the job.
But, when it comes to treatment, there are a number of challenges facing first responders.
First Responders Treatment Challenges
There has always been a stigma surrounding treatment, even more so for first responders and emergency personnel. Addressing unique challenges on the job and pressures arising from the work culture should be at the foundation of any program designed to help.
Some of these challenges include:
- Building Trust
- Warrior Culture
- Fear of Judgment
Among first responders, there is a high degree of mistrust of addiction treatment and mental health professionals. This is exacerbated by the strong camaraderie of protecting others in their circle from outside influences. This stigma surrounding reaching out for help has many emergency workers fearing they may lose pay or get fired if they admit to having a problem. This leads to many ignoring the problem or trying to deal with their substance use disorder problem on their own.
For anyone offering recovery services to this segment of the population, the first step is to earn their trust. A successful treatment program begins with earning that trust by helping to bridge the gap between the first responder culture and clinical treatment.
Warrior Culture: Heroes
Many of our heroes struggle with reaching out and asking for help, even when dealing with severe drug or alcohol addiction. This reluctance is partly based on their tough training of never giving up and never accepting defeat while doing their job.
This warrior attitude may offer a degree of mental and physical protection on the job, but it’s this same culture that becomes a barrier to treatment. Specially trained healthcare professionals are experts in facilitating support groups, introducing first responders to various treatment methods and sharing examples of their own personal journey of recovery.
Fear of Judgment
Self-disclosure is a major part of rehab but many first responders have difficulty or feel uncomfortable sharing their stories with anyone outside their immediate network. They fear getting fired if anyone discovers they are in treatment or bringing shame to their family, department, or colleagues.
When first responders and emergency personnel can meet together, this fear of judgment goes away, giving them a chance to talk about common issues with their peers. There is hope that talking to a fellow officer, EMT, etc. with similar struggles to their own can offer a level of hope that clinicians and therapists alone may not offer.
Recovery Team offers a specialized treatment program to help you build camaraderie and stay connected with your fellow first responders.
Heroes: Our First Responders Program
Making the decision to enter a rehab facility isn’t always an easy process – it can take time, self-reflection and a few false starts before rehab begins. Confidentiality and anonymity are important parts of successful recovery among first responders to help them cope with stress and anxiety and build resilience during the pandemic.
When it comes time to face the difficult challenges back home, look for a program dedicated to treating our heroes with drug or alcohol substance use disorder. We tailor our First Responders Program to meet the needs of Military, Police Officers, Firefighters, EMTs and Corrections Officers.
If you are looking for help, research facilities offering treatment options such as:
- Inpatient residential treatment
- Group therapy sessions
- Structured sober living
- Ongoing career support
- Nutritional guidance
- Peer support groups formed exclusively for first responders
- Comprehensive aftercare planning
- Holistic therapy options such as EMDR
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, is one of the treatment models we use to help improve coping skills and reduce your anxiety while offering an overall sense of healing. All first responders seeking rehab at Recovery Team are treated with the dignity and respect you deserve for your selfless sacrifice and service.
Our First Responders Program is run by a caring team of clinicians and therapists who understand the unique needs of anyone dealing with the aftermath of PTSD, depression and anxiety. We are here to help our emergency response heroes address any underlying issues to support integration back into a life free from drugs and alcohol.
Continuing Support for Our Heroes
Due to the current health crisis, society is relying on first responders now more than ever. They play an important role responding to calls for help, triaging patients, transporting sick and injured people and providing emergency medical treatment.
At Recovery Team our “heroes helping heroes” program is designed for men and women serving their communities to get help for trauma, depression and anxiety and overcome and conquer the underlying issues that lead to addiction.