Thursday, January 9, 2020

Mental Health Resources for First Responders

trauma
Trauma is an underlying factor in many cases of addiction and other forms of mental illness. Many people's employment puts them in harm's way and exposes them to see things that are challenging to unsee. When an individual experiences a traumatic event it is paramount that steps are taken to process and cope with it in healthy and productive ways. Preventing trauma from taking hold of one's life often depends on professional therapy.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Services & Sage Retreat, we have written about the effects trauma can have on people. We have seen first-hand the deleterious impact traumatic events can have on a person's life, and we know that it often leads people down a destructive path. Many of the men and women we treat at HVRC have some form of trauma in their past.

Working in the field of addiction medicine, we also know that first responders and military personnel are at a higher risk of being subject to traumatic events. They are the first to arrive on the scene of unspeakable horrors, from murder to child abuse. As such, those who lack the tools nor have the resources to cope with what they experience are at a significant risk of self-harming and self-destructive behaviors.

The prevalence of mental and behavioral health disorders among first responders is staggering. A large number of EMTs, firemen and women, and law enforcement officials struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and addiction. At HVRC, we created a program with the first responder demographic in mind, one that addresses a patient's underlying trauma and mental illness that follows from unfortunate experiences.

When people do not receive immediate treatment for trauma, it can lead to PTSD. When PTSD isn't treated, men and women turn to drugs and alcohol to cope; this trend often leads to the development of alcohol and substance use disorders. Sadly, some individuals find all of the above too challenging to bear. When that happens, they suffer from suicidal ideation, and many will attempt and succeed in ending their lives.

Police Officers Committing Suicide


Blue HELP – a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that tracks police suicides – reports that more police officers committed suicide in 2019. The organization found that at least 228 officers died by suicide last year, the highest number ever, USA Today reports. Moreover, the nonprofit states the actual death toll is probably much higher.

"This is a mental-health crisis," writes NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill. "And we – the NYPD and the law enforcement profession as a whole – absolutely must take action. This cannot be allowed to continue." 

The organization can't be sure if the findings mean more officers are taking their lives or if officer suicides are being more widely reported. Whatever the case may be, more than 200 documented instances is a staggering finding, which should lead law enforcement agencies to take action to ensure their officers receive support.

When more officers are dying by suicide than are in the line of duty, it is clear that we have a severe problem in America. Data from Officer Down Memorial Page Inc. shows that 132 officers lost their lives in the line of duty last year.

Blue HELP is hopeful that the revelations regarding suicide will prompt prevention efforts among agencies across the country, according to the article. Karen Solomon, the co-founder of Blue HELP, believes that there is a need to increase the availability of mental health resources for officers.

"I'm really hoping that 2020 will be the year this turns around," Karen Solomon, the group's co-founder, told ABC News. "I'd love to see suicide prevention receive the same efforts we put forth for traditional line-of-duty deaths."

HVRC First Responders Treatment Program


If you are a first responder or active or retired military who struggles with mental and behavioral health disorders, then please reach out to HVRC. Our Heroes Program was designed to meet your unique needs and help you take the first steps toward long-term recovery. Call us today for a free, confidential assessment. 866-273-0868

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