In a crisis, everyone relies on first responders. But who can first responders turn to in a crisis? That’s the question we’re answering for this year’s National First Responders Day, October 28th. These individuals put their health and wellbeing on the line, so we’re saying thank you to first responders and discussing the real issues that they have to face every single day.

What Is a First Responder?

thank you first responders

As the name implies, first responders are the people who are first on the scene in the event of an emergency. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have relied on first responders like EMTs to provide life-saving care. But there are a variety of situations in which first responders provide critical help. The United States Congress recognizes the following individuals as first responders:

  • Firefighters
  • Nurses
  • Armed forces
  • Police
  • Corrections officers
  • EMTs/Paramedics
  • Emergency dispatchers

In total, there are estimated to be 25 million first responders currently serving in the United States. And while first responders selflessly provide life-saving care in disaster situations, that does not come without a cost. That cost is what the American public recognizes on National First Responders Day.

First Responder Physical Dangers

Oftentimes, being a first responder is dangerous, and that’s important to remember on National First Responders Day. For example, firefighters may be injured while trying to rescue someone from a burning building, or an EMT might contract a serious illness in the course of providing emergency treatment. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 97 firefighters lose their lives in the line of duty each year, as well as 155 police offers.

But even when emergencies are not fatal, they still have the potential to do serious damage to first responders. First responders are at higher risk for serious injuries like broken bones, chemical burns, back injuries, and muscle strains. And not only are these painful, but they can come with heavy medical expenses. Additionally, stress about potential injuries can worsen first responders’ mental health.

First Responder Mental Health Dangers

Being a first responder often means experiencing trauma. Whether they are physically injured or not, first responders encounter highly distressing situations on a regular basis. This can lead to issues with anxiety, depression, and in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sadly, National First Responders Day is not only about recognizing these dangers. There is one more important risk for first responders: addiction. It’s not unheard of for first responders to cope with their jobs by drinking or relying on drugs, particularly if they’re suffering from a mental health disorder.

In cases like these, first responders are facing co-occurring disorders. This is where a mental health condition leads to addiction, and the addiction reinforces and worsens the mental health condition, and this cycle continues ad nauseum. The result is a complicated mental health condition and addiction that are often impossible to treat separately. So this National First Responders Day, it’s important to remember what first responders sacrifice to be heroes.

Recognizing National First Responders Day

Clearly, first responders give a lot of themselves for public benefit. So what can you do to honor their sacrifice this National First Responders Day?

You could partner with Thank You First Responders, a grassroots organization that works in local communities to say thank you to first responders. Whether it’s donating time or money, this is a great way to show first responders in your community how much you appreciate what they do.

If you know a first responder, reach out and tell them that you appreciate what they do for you and your community. There are many stressors to being on the frontlines of a crisis, but having support can make a world of difference.

And finally, consider sharing mental health and wellness resources and starting conversations about first responder mental health. It can be hard for our heroes to ask for help, but the more people who show them that it’s okay, the easier it becomes for them to get the care that they need.

How First Responders Can Get Help in Florida

first responder mental health

Being a first responder often feels overwhelming, and while National First Responders Day is a great way to show appreciation, first responders face struggles year-round. But nobody has to deal with a mental health condition alone, least of all our nation’s heroes. That’s why we provide a variety of mental wellness programs that can help first responders take care of themselves so that they can take care of the rest of us.

For first responders experiencing a mental health crisis, we offer a crisis stabilization program. When someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s important to stabilize their condition as soon as possible. And with our evidence-based treatment options, that’s exactly what we do. However, we often encourage individuals to attend our inpatient mental health program to address the root causes of their crisis and lead to long-term healing.

Alternatively, another program may be appropriate if there is a co-occurring substance use disorder. Because of the dual nature of co-occurring disorders, they are often difficult or even impossible to treat individually. That’s why we provide a dual diagnosis program that treats the underlying causes of these issues and allows for a complete, comprehensive recovery from addiction and mental illness.

If you or someone you know is a first responder, know that help is available here. Our mental health and addiction treatment center in St. Cloud, Florida proudly serves first responders and helps them regain control of their lives. If you’d like to learn more about our programming, call our friendly admissions specialists at 888-512-9802 or reach out online. Our gratitude to first responders lasts year-round, not just on National First Responders day.

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