When they’re young, almost all children have a fascination with firefighters. These men and women are some of the most brave to be found in any community, running toward the danger of a burning building instead of away from it.
Firefighters undergo extensive physical training to ensure that they have the strength and dexterity to rescue people from very hazardous situations, such as a basement that’s full of smoke or an attic that’s already engulfed in flames.
As experts in peers support training that helps firefighters deal with the critical stresses of their job, the team here at Peer Support Central understands that this physical training isn’t enough. Firefighters also need training in critical incident stress management to help them deal with the potential traumas of working as a first responder. Without this mental and emotional training, many firefighters develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition brought on after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or disturbing event.
According to the American Addiction Centers, “first responders are often at greater risk of experiencing PTSD than the average person. In the general population, the average rates of PTSD are 8% for men and 20% for women. Among firefighters, rates range between 7% and 37%.”
If you’re the coworker, spouse, family member, or friend of a firefighter, it’s very important that they have access to the peer support training resources they need to remain mentally strong in the face of constant stress. Contact Peer Support Central to learn more about how our courses and workshops can help.
Signs A Firefighter Has PTSD
They’re Checked Out
Many spouses of firefighters with some degree of PTSD testify to the fact that their loved one tense to enter a “vortex of numbness” immediately upon arriving home from work. This is often a chair in front of the TV or on the couch with their laptop. Trying to speak or interact with them once they’re in this position is completely fruitless, as they just ignore you or leave the room.
Think about your capacity to deal with critical incidents and stress like an empty water glass. Most of us wake up refreshed from sleep and recharged to face the day ahead. Our stress glass is empty, slowly filling as the day goes on. Firefighters with PTSD, however, start the day with their glass already three-quarters full. The littlest thing can cause the cup to overflow, resulting in emotional outbursts and even violence.
Is your spouse constantly talking about the way things “usta” be, or the things they “usta” enjoy? Maybe they used to hunt, fish, go mountain biking, go to the gym, play with the kids, or plan family vacations. Now, they do nothing but go to work, and check out immediately upon getting home. They’ve lost contact with friends who aren’t coworkers, and find it difficult to get excited about anything.
Many firefighters with PTSD find it impossible to get quality rest, something that adds to their tendency for emotional outbursts. This can include insomnia, intentional sleep deprivation, bad dreams/night terrors, and a lot of tossing and turning while in the bed.
Resources To Help Firefighters With PTSD
As you can see, military personnel and law enforcement officers aren’t the only ones who have to worry about PTSD. While these two first responder communities have enjoyed heighten awareness about the issue, it’s very important that firefighters not be left behind.
That’s why Peer Support Central has created an completely training curriculum that’s customized to the needs and working conditions of a firefighter. In addition to peer support training, the following are some good resources for supporting a firefighter with PTSD:
- Cognitive Therapy
- Exposure Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EDMR)
- Group Therapy
- Family Therapy
Peer Support Central Gives Firefighters The Tools They Need To Avoid PTSD
As we’ve already mentioned, however, the best tactic for dealing with firefighter PTSD is to create a peer support and critical incident counseling system within the first responder community. Not only can critical incident stress management delivered via peers help firefighters be more mentally prepared for trauma, thus reducing the risk of long-term effects, it can also be a way for them to feel like they’re helping others to learn from past experiences, strengthening the bond between coworkers.