POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 81 First Responder, Trauma and PTSD PTSD, trauma reactions, workplace stress and other mental health issues are now recognized as a common risk for police, paramedics, EMTS, firefighters and 911 dispatch workers. In turn, many First Responder agencies have increased their funding support to help their staff overcome the cumulative harm of chronic trauma exposure. Who are First Responders? First Responders are the people who come to help when life is not going well. First Responders are Police, Firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's), Paramedics, trained rescuers (e.g. SARS) and front line Child Welfare Workers and Investigators. Nurses and physicians who work 'in the field' may also be First Responders. First Responders are typically found at the scene of accidents, natural disasters, human conflict, and at events were there is the potential for illness or injury.As a result, a First Responders contact with the public often involves emotionally distressing situations. On a daily basis they are expected to deal with sights and experiences most people will never know.A First Responder's job is to protect and preserve life, property, evidence, and the environment - and in some situations these mandates are in conflict, resulting in the potential for further distress. First Responders are also everyday people.They have the same challenges and struggles with spouses and partners, friends, children, personal history, workplace demands, and life stressors as any other person. Due to their employment, these common difficulties are often magnified by shift work, disrupted sleep patterns, and a sometimes unappreciative public. First Responders are viewed by the public as highly emotionally resilient individuals. They are expected to 'be tough'.They are expected to 'remain calm under pressure at all times'. They are expected to be the consummate professionals, no matter what is going on around them, what people say to them, or how they may personally feel threatened or attacked. Unlike for the average citizen, if a First Responder slips, or has a bad day, someone else may be permanently injured, suffer illness needlessly, or die. Even when a First Responder does everything correctly their actions may be reviewed and judged by others who have no real understanding of the experience or the job. To do all this, many First Responders learn to box up their emotions and thoughts. They attempt to segregate their work life from their home life. They find the only people who can understand how they are feeling are their work colleagues. Yet, while colleagues may be a great support, they may also send the message that emotional distress is not something to be shared, even acknowledged.This may leave a First Responder isolated and alone to deal with their distress. Evidence of Mental Distress in First Responders We can all do with a little TLC. Yet too often police, firefighters, paramedics / EMTs, child welfare workers and other First Responders are left to their own resources to try to understand and deal with the impact their distressed emotions. Distressed emotions triggered by daily exposure to accidents and injury, illness and neglect, abuse and trauma. It is very likely that the effort to deny or minimize distress eventually weakens a persons general psychological health. This weakening may make a person susceptible to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses. Research on First Responders' mental health has only recently become a priority.What information is available is limited in amount and quality, with only a few studies that are repeatedly referenced. The findings so far shows that First Responders are at high risk for depression, anxiety, Superhero on the outside, Trauma on the inside Incidence of Mental Health Issues in a Lifetime Depression Anxiety/Panic Disorder Substance Abuse PTSD Sleep Disorder Suicide / 100 000* 10-15%** **** 11-25%** 1.2-8.3%** 40% 26 10-30%** **** 10-29%** 3.6-11%** 50% 9 10% 25% 11-25%** 8.8-20.3%** 30-60%** 56 7-11% 8-13.1% 32% 10% 40-60% 15 8% 12% 5% 1-3.5%** 15-20%** 17-male 5-female Police Firefighter EMT/Paramedic Millitary*** General Public Unless otherwise indicated figures are drawn from published papers or national agency websites. *2016 Reported Statistics (Stats Canada, National Paramedic and Firefighter Societies, Department of National Defence) ** ranges may indicate variations due to gender or study referenced ***Stats Canada ****unable to locate research that provide clear findings on these topics Figures for non-civilians may be underreporting due to stigma against acknowledgement of mental health issues continued