Firefighters routinely experience stress on the job, and while some amount of stress actuates peak performance, especially in life-threatening situations, too much stress for extended periods of time adversely impacts the body and mind. Indeed, prolonged stress is one of the leading causes of health problems among firefighters. If not identified and managed in a timely manner, excessive stress can manifest as symptoms of depression and anxiety, headaches, digestive problems, hypertension, and even heart attacks.
First responders are special people. Most don’t think about money or glory; rather they are motivated by the reward of providing safety and relief, doing all they can to help others.
While some might consider first responders super heroes, just like the rest of humanity they have a very real vulnerability: mental health. Few go into the profession thinking about how the job will affect them mentally. As a public servant who cares, I feel mental health should be held to the same standard as physical fitness.
First Responders are routinely exposed to traumatic events in the course of their duties. As such, they are at increased risk for long-term problems from traumatic stress. This resource sheet answers some of the questions you may have about trauma, normal stress responses, and chronic stress disorders.
Check out this PowerPoint presentation from the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue. According to the presentation, the fire fighter population is at high risk for suicide, with divorce, trauma, and stress being common risk factors.
Grief can be defined as a deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death or the loss of someone or something. Grief can be experienced in a number of situations including the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, breakups, ending of friendships, loss of property due to disaster, loss of personal items, and loss of personal integrity/physical violence or assault.
It is not abnormal to feel impacted by the things that you see in your line of work. In fact, it is absolutely normal to be impacted in some way by many of the things you encounter. Here is one first responder's experience with his work, experiences, and his realization that he was suffering with PTSD.
If you think it is hard to get into the fire service, wait until you try to get out; here are things you can do now to navigate that end-of-career change
Retirement from a life-long career can be a stressful event, regardless of the field. Research conducted in the military and law enforcement fields shows that retirement from a career in public safety can be more stressful than retirement from the civilian workforce.