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

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