Study: One in Four First Responders Have Mental Health Issues
An ongoing study by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has preliminary results showing that a quarter of first responders struggle with mental health issues such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Burch, 2017; UAMS, 2017).
The UAMS study has already found that “18 to 37 percent of first responders meet the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the suicide rate for this group is twenty-five times greater than that of the general population” (Burch, 2017). According to psychiatric nurse and study organizer Sarah Jones, there is not an abundance of research examining mental health issues in firefighters and paramedics like there is for veterans and law enforcement. Jones states that the study is certainly “. . . showing there’s a problem, but more importantly, something is going to be done about it” (Burch, 2017).
Additionally, the study examines how first responders—particularly male first responders—think about mental health services. Jones explains, “You’ll be looked at differently. Not only as a person, but also as someone you’re running into a fire with, that they might be concerned about how you are going to handle a situation” (Burch, 2017). This has been changing for the better. As Arkansas EMS Chief Becky Stewart states, “It used to be we’re macho. We put on our capes and we go out there and we save the world,” but now her department provides mental health services. “We provide counseling and coaching by . . . behavioral specialists who are trained in emergency services work and they know what we do,” Stewart continued (Burch, 2017).
Firefighters and paramedics in Arkansas can learn more about participating in the study by clicking here.
Burch, K. (2017). Depression is a major issue for first responders. Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/depression-major-issue-first-responders
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). (2017). Pilot study: Exploring the mental health needs of first responders in Arkansas. Retrieved from https://nursing.uams.edu/research/1st-responders-pilot-study/