Friday, June 14, 2024

First Responder Burnout: The Toll of Community Service

 


It is common knowledge that first responders are among the helping professionals most at risk of burnout and psychological vulnerability. It’s the nature of the job, which consistently has you putting the needs of the community before your own. And the effects of the constant and continuous exposure to these stressors over the course of a first responder's career will pop up in different aspects of life.

Many first responders experience increased stress, depression, and anxiety following exposure to critical incidents. Reports show that about 85% of first responders have experienced symptoms attributed to mental health conditions. And first responders experience depression and PTSD at a rate of up to five times that of the general population. Demanding schedules, threatening conditions, and mental, physical, and spiritual stress can contribute to job burnout.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive, prolonged stress.

Burnout is not caused by stress alone. Here are some of the other factors that can lead to burnout: 

  • Feeling like you have little or no control over your work
  • Lack of recognition or reward for good work
  • Unclear or overly demanding job expectations
  • Working too much, without enough time for socializing or relaxing
  • Lack of close, supportive relationships
  • Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others

 Being burned out is feeling empty, mentally exhausted, and lacking motivation, with no resources left to draw on.

While many of the signs of burnout may sound similar to what anyone would experience after a particularly stressful day of work, it’s caused by prolonged stress. And it’s often not triggered by a singular event, unless that event stretches over a period.

People experiencing burnout often cannot see a way to change their situation. If not addressed and treated, burnout can lead to a full-on mental health crisis. There is a significant association between PTSD and burnout, particularly the depressive component. While Burnout is not currently recognized by the DSM-5, it is a serious condition that makes a person less resilient to handling additional traumas.

To address burnout within organizations, strategies such as focus groups, Critical Incident Stress Management programs (CISM), and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) have been implemented. These programs aim to provide first responders who have experienced traumatic events on shift with guidance, support, and therapy options.

If you notice any of the warning signs mentioned above, don't brush them off. Address them and seek help before they escalate. Seek help before it becomes too overwhelming.


*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD

Friday, June 7, 2024

First Responders and Divorce

 


Every day, first responders put their lives on the line to protect and serve their communities. However, this demanding and high-stress job can take a toll on their personal lives in ways that many people may not realize.

Studies have shown that the divorce rate among first responders is significantly higher than the national average. In fact, research from the First Responder's Initiative reports an average divorce rate of 60-75% for these brave individuals, compared to the overall national average of 50%.

One of the biggest challenges faced by first responders is maintaining healthy relationships.

First responders are routinely exposed to distressing situations such as accidents, fires, and crisis situations. The demanding nature of their work can sometimes overshadow personal relationships and lead to exhaustion, burnout, and PTSD.

Additionally, their long shifts, night shifts, and work on holidays can disrupt family dynamics and limit quality time spent with loved ones. This can make it challenging for first responders to engage in meaningful interactions with loved ones, leading to feelings of isolation and difficulty seeking support during tough times. Their dedication to prioritizing the safety and well-being of their communities often means putting their own needs second.

Compounding these challenges is the stigma surrounding mental health within these professions. Many first responders may feel hesitant or unable to seek help when needed due to this stigma. And while emotional detachment may be a necessary coping mechanism for their job, it can also create distance between partners.

It's important to note that many first responders are able to maintain successful and fulfilling relationships.

Establishing open communication, providing mutual support, displaying empathy, and seeking appropriate help when necessary are crucial elements in resolving personal difficulties that may arise between first responders and their significant others.

However, we cannot ignore the very real impact that divorce can have on a first responder's wellbeing. Divorce can take an immense emotional toll on any individual. For first responders who already face high-stress situations and traumatic experiences in their line of work, we cannot ignore the impact that divorce can have on their wellbeing.

The intense emotional toll of divorce, coupled with the existing stressors of their job, can be overwhelming for first responders. It’s crucial to have access to peer support groups or group therapy in these cases, and connect with others who understand the unique challenges divorce presents. By seeking this kind of support, first responders can find solace in knowing they are not alone and receive valuable advice from those who have walked in their shoes.

To borrow a phrase, “it takes a village.”

And when facing one of the most personal of pains, you need people on your side, ready and willing to step in and help (peers, friends, and/or family) you are better able to cope.

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD

Friday, May 31, 2024

The Power of Social Support



We all know that having a strong support system can make a world of difference in our lives. Whether we are facing challenges or simply need someone to confide in, having people who support and care for us can greatly impact our overall well-being. Recent studies have shown that social support not only helps us cope with tough times but also plays a vital role in promoting mental wellness and protecting against distress. This is especially significant for individuals who have experienced trauma. The power of social support should never be underestimated, especially in times of hardship. It has proven to be a major factor in aiding individuals in recovering from difficult events.

There are three main types of social support:

  • Emotional support involves providing trust, empathy, love, and care for the person seeking help. This type of support can help individuals feel less alone and improve their overall sense of well-being.
  • Instrumental support, on the other hand, involves providing practical assistance. This can include financial aid or help with daily tasks, which may be essential for those with immediate needs. Studies have shown that instrumental support is associated with a lower risk of suicide death. 
  • Informational support involves offering advice and guidance. This can help individuals make informed decisions and access appropriate resources for coping with their trauma. 

Studies have shown that those with larger social networks and those who feel supported experience less reactivity to stressors and have better mental health overall. This supports the "stress-buffering hypothesis," which proposes that having strong social support can help reduce negative thoughts and beliefs following a traumatic experience. Essentially, social support acts as a shield against stress, making traumatic experiences seem less impactful while providing valuable coping resources.

Whether it comes from a romantic partner, family member, close friend, or support group, having reliable and effective social support has been identified as one of the most significant contributors to overall well-being. So remember, never underestimate the power of social support - especially in times of hardship. Make sure to prioritize these relationships and lean on them when needed. They could make all the difference in your journey towards better mental health.


*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD