While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, has probably existed as long as humans have been experiencing trauma, it’s only been recently that this serious health condition has become legitimized and well-known in our society. In many ways, this awareness is due to the fact that information from the front lines of modern wars is far more readily available than it used to be. It’s also due to the fact that, as a society, we’re far more willing to acknowledge mental illness and emotional disorders as serious conditions, rather than indulgences that ought to be ignored or laughed off.
When many people hear the term PTSD, they often envision soldiers, but it’s important to remember that this health condition knows no profession. Without proper training and support, any type of first responder is at risk for PTSD. Keep reading to learn more about how Peer Support Central can help you provide life-saving assistance to first responders with PTSD.
Who Is Considered A First Responder?
Before we get too far into our discussion of how to help first responders who need PTSD support, it’s necessary to define the profession. For more in-depth information on this topic, please read our blog titled, “Who Is A First Responder?” For now, we’ll simply say that first responders are those who are likely to be first on the scene of a traumatic event because it is their job to do so. Jobs in which people are generally considered first responders include firefighters, EMTs, police, medical personnel, and military professionals.
What Puts First Responders At Risk For PTSD?
Now that we understand who first responders are, let’s talk about why they’re are so commonly at risk for PTSD. Many of people will (hopefully) only experience a few traumatic events in our entire life. This could be something like a car accident, a mugging, or the untimely death of a loved one. First responders, however, are required to face these types of events on a daily basis. We call them “critical stress incidents.” Unlike civilians, first responders are not only required to experience these critical incidents, they must perform their jobs at a high level during them.
In order to complete their jobs while being exposed to traumatic experiences, many first responders suppress their emotions and even their memories. Unlike you and I, who might be able to take the day off of work or have a good cry to help us deal with the stress, first responders must be ready to serve again immediately.
Ways You Can Help First Responders Who Have PTSD
Whether you’re a first responder yourself or simply care about someone who is in this industry and suffering from PTSD, you may feel compelled to provide support. Here are some ways to do that without bothering or offending the person in question:
- Read – Get educated about what PTSD is, why it happens, and how it can successfully be treated. “There are several great books available to help people who have experienced trauma firsthand,” explains Laura Reagan, LCSW-C of GoodTherapy.org. “Two I recommend are Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Compassion Fatigue by Charles Figley.” The goal isn’t to become a know-it-all about PTSD, but to better understand what first responders are going through.
- Listen – Keeping trauma locked up inside isn’t healthy. More than anything, many PTSD sufferers are simply looking for the support of someone who’s willing to listen. Listen without talking back, asking questions, or trying to rationalize things away. Just listen.
- Help Them Find A Peer Support Specialist – Although the stigma isn’t what it was years ago, many first responders still feel that seeking professional help for PTSD is a sign of weakness. Explain to them that talking with a peer support specialist is different, these counselors are often former first responders themselves.
- Become A Peer Support Specialist – The ultimate way that you can support first responders with PTSD is to become a peer support specialist yourself. Check out our previous blog post about who can become a peer support specialist to learn more.
Peer Support Central was created by law enforcement veterans for the express purpose of training up a new generation of peer support specialists. We provide training and development courses that can be accessed online. Contact us to learn more or register today!