First responders comprise a group of individuals that are often witness to the immediate fall out of a serious accident. By definition, they are usually the first to arrive after a car accident, fire, medical emergency, or other disaster. Among other duties, many are expected to perform life-saving medical care under the most extenuating of circumstances. Unsurprisingly, the job can be traumatic. First responders can benefit from counseling services by providers trained in the particulars of their profession.
What is a First Responder?
The name “first responder” encompasses several professions. As the name suggests, these individuals are the first to respond to a disaster. They are often medical professionals but may also be law enforcement or military. Examples of careers that may act as first responders include:
- Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)
- Other emergency personnel, including doctors and nurses
Mental Health Concerns for First Responders
First responders must bear witness to inherently disturbing sights and sounds. Gruesome bodily injury, emotional suffering, and immediate environmental hazards are all sources of potential trauma for these individuals. What is more, first responders are expected to compartmentalize this trauma in order to perform optimally. Repeated exposure to stressful events, combined with little recovery time, results in a significantly increased vulnerability to mental health concerns. Long shifts and irregular sleep patterns further contribute to this vulnerability.
It is estimated that 30 percent of all first responders will develop behavioral and/or mental health concerns, including PTSD and depression. This percentage is 10 percent higher than that of the general population. Firefighters and law enforcement have also been found to have a higher incidence of suicidal ideation and attempt.
Unfortunately, barriers to mental health care are prevalent amongst first responders. Studies have shown a continued stigma toward receiving support, for example. Other potential obstacles include a fear of retaliation in the form of enforced leave or prolonged desk work duties.
First Responder Counselors
Given the alarming statistics surrounding first responders and mental health issues, more resources are becoming available to assist these individuals in identifying and managing concerns as early as possible. A perceived stigma surrounding care persists; however, it is somewhat lessened in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, when mental health concerns rose to the forefront amid the uncertainty of a global health crisis.
Any counseling may be beneficial for a first responder. However, a counselor that is familiar with the emotional and physical stressors unique to first responders is preferential. Talk therapy is greatly bolstered when a provider can truly empathize with a particular type of distress.
Mental healthcare providers can undergo additional training to become Certified First Responder Counselors (CFRCs). In order to achieve this designation, a provider must complete many hours of continuing education. They must also conduct in-person interviews with first responders and go on at least one ride along. This allows them to further understand the unique and stressful circumstances under which first responders operate on a daily basis.
Certified First Responder Counselor Destin, Florida
The Crane Center is pleased to offer certified first responder counseling services through Kathleen Hensley. Kathleen is a Florida Licensed Mental Health Counselor and CFRC. She has experience with the unique needs and concerns of our nation’s first responders. If you are a first responder and are experiencing anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concern, call or go online today to schedule your new patient appointment.