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Trauma for First Responders: A Major Need for Healthy Coping Skills Interventions

Trauma for First Responders: A Major Need for Healthy Coping Skills Interventions

Please note: If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Your life matters – healing is possible.

First responders witness a variety of emergency situations, from fires to terrorist attacks, medical situations to brutal violence and more. The New York Daily News states that police officers typically witness a total of 188 “critical events” over the course of their career, which often involves seeing someone dying, being threatened, taken hostage, and more. The images stored in the memory from these events can be long-lasting, traumatic, and debilitating, placing those in this field at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Many emergency-related positions are not always equipped with services to assist individuals who have been traumatically affected by these events, and it’s quite common for first-responders to feel as though they must face the after-math of trauma on their own.

Healthy coping skills are necessary in order for any person to recover and heal from traumatic events, and first-responders are in a unique position that makes them susceptible to these events on a more commonly occurring basis.  A 2017 study published in the journal Mindfulness highlighted the benefits of Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training (MBRT) as a way to reduce burnout and build psychological resilience amongst first responders. Participants for the study were recruited from police and fire departments, and were asked to participate in an 8-week MBRT course that involved experiential exercises such as the body scan, sitting and walking meditations, mindful movement, and more. Individuals were then asked to complete several questionnaires related to mindfulness, burnout, and resiliency.

Researchers found that increased mindfulness led to decreased burnout, which is a critical issue for anyone in this field. Increased mindfulness was also associated with increased resilience, which emphasizes the fact that this type of training could be extremely beneficial in helping first responders move forward from traumatic events. Implementing healthy coping skills interventions means that first responders have more tools available to them to not only seek the help they need, but to boost their recovery journey as they continue to save lives.

If you haven’t already, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center to learn more about programs to best suit your needs. Optimal recovery is possible, and you are not alone in your pursuit for happiness, health, and wellbeing.

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