The mental health of first responders is a vital yet often neglected aspect of their well-being. In this blog, we will explore why it’s crucial for first responder organizations to invest in the mental health of their members.
According to Utah State University, Communities spend thousands of dollars on first responders to protect them physically: body armor for law enforcement officers, heat resistant gear for firefighters, gloves and reflective clothing for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel. Supporting and investing in programs related to first responders’ mental health is equally important in keeping their minds safe. (https://extension.usu.edu/heart/research/first-responder-mental-health)
First responders face rigorous training to be able to perform the physical aspects of their jobs, however, much less emphasis is placed on how they will cope with what they see and experience in the field. These experiences can leave lasting emotional scars that may go unnoticed or untreated. The pressure to remain strong, composed, and unemotional can lead to suppressed emotions, resulting in long-term psychological distress.
Unfortunately, first responders may fear that seeking help will be perceived as a sign of weakness and in many first responder organizations, there are concerns about the confidentiality of support services, and workers sometimes fear accessing these services may influence how management sees or treats them (BC FirstResponderMentalHealth, n.d).
Organizations that foster an environment of openness about mental health experience heightened productivity, enhanced attendance, elevated employee engagement, and exhibit a stronger capacity to attract and retain skilled individuals. Research has shown a potential return on investment of $2.30 for every one dollar organizations invest in creating mentally healthy workplaces (BC FirstResponderMentalHealth, n.d).
Investing in the mental health of first responders isn’t just about addressing existing issues; it’s about preventing them in the first place. By prioritizing mental health, organizations can help break the cycle of untreated psychological distress that often leads to burnout, turnover, and even suicide among first responders.
While creating a culture of openness around mental health is not something that happens overnight, First Response Mental Health has created the PeerConnect App to support agencies in taking their Peer Support Program to the next level.
In recent weeks we have heard about strategic investments by Gov. Mike DeWine for Ohio’s first responders agencies as part of the Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention and Resilience Program. The program, which is designed to address job stress, burnout and understaffing, has awarded nearly $65 million to 250 Ohio agencies, according to the State news release.
While this funding creates a path for agencies to invest in the mental health of their first responders, the cultural stigma around mental health still exists.
First Response Mental Health’s innovative and acclaimed wellness solution PeerConnect is designed to empower not only the first responder agency but also the individual who utilizes the system to feel supported and engaged.
PeerConnect currently supports more than 70 agencies across the United States and Canada including a state-wide initiative in South Carolina and the MN Fire Initiative.
Learn more about this one-of-a-kind platform by booking a meeting with us today.