First Responders and Depression - The Infusionist Tyler, TX

The term “posttraumatic stress disorder” was coined by psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton in 1971 after he observed the effects of the atomic bomb on Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

He defined PTSD as a pathological state of mind that results from witnessing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence, causing actual or threatened physical harm to oneself (1). According to Lifton, PTSD is characterized by a complex and severe reaction that may affect mood regulation and interpersonal relationships (2). It is distinguished from other types of trauma because it entails psychological problems arising in response to a highly stressful event in which the individual believes they have lost control over their environment. These responses are usually attributed directly to the traumatic incident itself rather than its immediate consequences, as are examples of traumatic responses such as shock, terror and anxiety. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder only applies when there is belief of having no control over one’s environment (“3”).

Lifton emphasizes that this condition can be triggered due to a variety of events like war, earthquakes, torture, unnatural disasters like tornadoes and floodings that can threaten an individual’s life. However this disorder has also been observed more recently in women who
have endured abuse at home. About 10% – 15% of rape victims experience symptoms similar to PTSD upon reporting their assault(4).

Sandra Ramirez survived sixteen years with serial killer Richard Ramirez who repeatedly raped her before killing her mother in a murder suicide called La Bodega Mystery. Although Sandra survived she still seems to struggle with many symptoms like hypervigilance disorder; difficulty falling asleep; nightmares where she sees Richard Ramirez; anger issues when being reminded about him; divorce from husband Jimmie Ramirez Sr.; post traumatic stress disorder and extreme headaches from the traumatic nature of her assault(5). She was diagnosed with mild posttraumatic stress syndrome

First responders are at risk of depression due to their daily exposure to trauma.

First responders are at risk of depression due to their daily exposure to trauma. First responders work in a variety of fields, including law enforcement, health care and military personnel. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), these professionals may be exposed to traumatic events on a regular basis. These events include physical injuries and death that can cause mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Depression is one type of mental illness that first responders may experience after being exposed to trauma. Depression is treatable if it’s diagnosed early. However, if first responders wait too long before seeking help for their symptoms they may be unable to return back into active duty or their career will be permanently damaged. It’s important for first responders who want help with depression diagnosis or treatment options for them and their loved ones seek assistance before it affects their work performance or personal life negatively.

The suicide rate for fire fighters is fifteen percent higher than the U.S. national average.

First responders are at a higher risk for depression. If you are a first responder, there are several things you can do to lower your risk of developing depression:

  • Seek help from a mental health professional if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression. This can include sadness, hopelessness or even thoughts of suicide. It’s not shameful to seek help from others when you’re struggling with something like this. The mental health professionals that work in our community have been trained to help people overcome their struggles with depression and other mood disorders.
  • Stay active and get plenty of sleep. Exercise is one way that many people manage their moods when they’re feeling depressed; it releases endorphins that improve how we feel about ourselves and our lives around us (and it also helps us sleep better!). Other good ways to manage your moods include getting enough sleep each night — seven hours is recommended — as well as eating healthy foods every day (avoiding junk food).

Police officers face a significant amount of life-threatening situations, and ninety percent of police officers experience at least one traumatic event in their career.

As a police officer, you’re going to be exposed to a significant amount of life-threatening situations. A study conducted by Harvard University found that after a year on the job, fortyseven percent of fire fighters suffered from PTSD symptoms on a regular basis. Another study revealed that one in six police officers is likely to experience depression in his or her lifetime.

It is important for all first responders (police officers, firefighters and paramedics) to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression so they can seek help if needed.

Eighty-three percent of first responders report experiencing a traumatic incident at least once in their career, and fiftyfive percent have experienced multiple traumatic incidents.

You’re probably already aware that depression is a serious issue in America. But did you know that first responders are at a higher risk for depression than civilian populations?

Depression leads to suicide—for example, one study found that people with severe depression were 19 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. And many factors can contribute to this increased risk: the prevalence of traumatic events and co-morbid conditions, like substance abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

One study found that after a year on the job, forty-seven percent of fire fighters suffered from PTSD symptoms on a regular basis.

A study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that after a year on the job, forty-seven percent of fire fighters suffered from PTSD symptoms on a regular basis. Over three hundred fire fighters in Chicago showed signs of PTSD or depression and substance abuse, and thirty-one percent were diagnosed with PTSD.

The study also showed that when these firefighters retire, only thirty percent are able to find jobs with similar pay levels to what they earned while working as professional first responders. This can lead to financial stressors that can increase your risk for depression.

Over three hundred fire fighters in Chicago showed signs of PTSD or depression and substance abuse, and thirty-one percent were diagnosed with PTSD

The study, which was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, looked at firefighters who had been on the job for less than one year. Over three hundred firefighters from Chicago showed signs of PTSD or depression and substance abuse, and thirty-one percent were diagnosed with PTSD.

The most common symptoms were sleeping difficulty (50%), inability to concentrate (57%), irritability (62%) and increased appetite/weight gain/loss (70%). Thirty-nine percent also reported fatigue as an issue for them during their shift.

First responders don’t seek treatment because they fear they will be viewed as weak or not fit for duty by their coworkers.

People who are first responders tend to not seek treatment for mental health issues due to a fear of being labeled weak or unfit for duty by their co-workers. Since the job is highly stressful and most people don’t even know what first responders do, they fear that they will be viewed as less than other officers if they seek help.

This may come from a misguided belief that seeking help equates to weakness; however, this simply isn’t true. In fact, seeking treatment can actually make you stronger and better able to handle the stressors of your job than if you didn’t get help!

Firefighters rank themselves in the highest category of alcohol drinkers while only ranking themselves middle-ofthe-pack when it comes to exercise, smoking, mental health disorders, and sleep disorders. They also reported that they feel comfortable drinking over twenty drinks per month

Firefighters rank themselves in the highest category of alcohol drinkers while only ranking themselves middle-of-the-pack when it comes to exercise, smoking, mental health disorders, and sleep disorders. They also reported that they feel comfortable drinking over twenty drinks per month (a number considered heavy drinking). In comparison with other professions, firefighters have a higher rate of alcohol use than the general population.

Eighty-seven percent of women who work nonstandard shifts report feelings of exhaustion compared with seventyfour percent of those who work standard shifts

  • Women who work nonstandard shifts report feeling more exhausted than women who work standard shifts.
  • Nonstandard shifts include working nights, weekends, or holidays.
  • Some people experience exhaustion as a result of fatigue and burnout.

Exhaustion is the physical and mental condition you get when your body has been pushed to its limits, while fatigue is the feeling of tiredness that can be caused by lack of sleep or poor nutrition. Burns are an occupational hazard in some careers such as firefighters and police
officers; they often occur when someone stays long hours in high temperatures without wearing protective clothing like hats or gloves (or their uniform).

Police officers, firefighters, and other first responders are at high risk for developing depression.

First responders are at high risk for developing depression. Depression is a serious mental health issue that affects many people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. It’s the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression can be treated with therapy or medication and should not be ignored—it doesn’t just go away on its own.

Prevention is key: there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing depression if you’re a first responder or otherwise at high risk.

The results of the study clearly show that first responders are at risk of developing depression and other mental illnesses. The high rates of depression among this group are alarming, and something needs to be done about it. We need to make sure these brave men and women get the treatment they deserve for the injuries they sustained for our country’s safety.

Additional Resources

First responders are at an increased risk of developing depression due to the unique challenges they face on the job[1][2]. Symptoms of depression in first responders include feelings of hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, and changes in appetite[3]. Research has found that first
responders have a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress than the general population[4]. SAMHSA’s National Helpline provides resources for family members of people with substance abuse problems[5].

  1. First Responders and Mental Health: When Heroes Need …
    As Suicide Prevention Month continues, we take a look at the mental health of a group constantly caring for others: first responders.
    psychiatrictimes.com
  2. First Responder Mental Health and Wellness
    Learn about the unique challenges first responders face on the job, and how employers can support their mental health and help them build …
    kaiserpermanente.org
  3. Signs of Depression in Your First Responder Loved One
    There is a close link between first responders and depression. Learn the symptoms to lookout for with your first responder loved one today.
    fountainhillsrecovery.com
  4. Prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress among first …
    First responders, including paramedics, firefighters, ambulance personnel, emergency medical
    technicians (EMTs), emergency medical service (EMS) …
    nih.gov
  5. SAMHSA’s National Helpline
    Created for family members of people with alcohol abuse or drug abuse problems. Answers
    questions about substance abuse, its symptoms, different …
    samhsa.gov

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