The Impact Of First Responders On Mental And Physical Health Worldwide: National First Responder Day
Content Warning: Please be advised that this article contains mentions of trauma, domestic violence, suicide, and substance use. Read with discretion.
The United States Congress named October 28th National First Responders Day in 2017. The day honors police officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), 911 dispatchers, firefighters, disaster relief aids, and crime scene reporters for the services they provide to communities worldwide.
What Is National First Responders Day?
National First Responders Day is a federally recognized day dedicated to the professionals who respond to crime scenes, accidents, and other mental and physical health emergencies. The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and beyond showed how first responders often risked their own lives to save those in their community and worked long hours when others couldn't.
Due to the bravery of first responders, the United States White House submitted a proclamation on National First Responders Day in October of 2022. The proclamation aimed to pay tribute to EMTs, natural disaster relief, paramedics, police officers, nationwide and local firefighters, and other public safety workers for their impact during global crises and throughout history.
How To Celebrate This Day
To celebrate National First Responders Day, consider the impact these workers have had on your community. If you have ever encountered an emergency worker, you may have seen the risks they took and the care they provided in keeping you and your loved ones safe.
You may consider researching statistics on first responders' mental and physical health, and endeavor to understand how these workers safety society. You might also send a care package to your local police station, write an encouraging note to your local EMS team, or send relief packages to those working on the frontlines to offer disaster relief.
If you are a first responder, you might celebrate the day by treating yourself to self-care, reaching out for mental health support, or writing a thank you letter to yourself to help yourself recognize and remember what you do for your community.
The First Responders Children's Foundation also hosts a yearly event on National First Responders Day to recognize real-life heroes on stage. They award a medal and certificate to notable faces in the following categories of support workers:
Public safety officers
EMTs and paramedics
You can also donate to the organization to support future awards and recognition for workers who have significantly impacted their communities.
The Impact Of First Responders
First responders can have lasting impacts on the mental and physical health of their own communities and communities abroad, such as the following:
Often, first responders may be the first to respond to a mental health crisis, such as a suicide attempt, self-harm wound, or psychological crisis. Those who call 911 due to these crises may first speak to a 911 dispatcher before meeting with police officers, firefighters, and EMS workers who evaluate their symptoms. In the case of a life-threatening mental health emergency, these workers often transport the individual to a hospital, where emergency room staff and nurses work to triage the patient, provide life-saving care, and refer them to mental health services within the community.
Mental Health Intervention
If you are experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.
Additionally, these workers may respond to substance use emergencies, such as overdoses, alcohol poisoning, or other substance-related physical and mental health conditions and symptoms. In 2022, overdose-related emergencies were at a high, indicating the importance of early intervention and emergency services. Paramedics and EMTs may provide the first response to these types of emergencies, such as medication that can reverse overdose symptoms.
If you are struggling with substance use, you can contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
Often, a police officer team may be the first to respond to a mental health report of someone in the community. They are trained to provide "wellness checks," where they screen for a potential crisis and contact emergency providers if required to transport an individual to a hospital for further treatment.
All of the first responders who respond to emergencies may work to offer empathetic, focused, and caring support to those who call 911 or request support for a mental health crisis. They may be the first face an individual sees before being referred to further treatment options, so their impact on an individual's opinion of the healthcare system can be significant.
First responders may also offer emergency support at crime scenes, accidents, emergency rooms, natural disaster sites, and other emergency situations and locations. Often, police officers and firefighters may be the first to arrive at a scene. If it is a crime scene, they may secure the area with crime tape or cones, retrieve any survivors, offer medical support, and assess the risk of the situation.
As emergency support can be dangerous, many first responders risk their lives to provide safety, care, and life-saving medical procedures. In 2022 alone, there were 129 law enforcement officer fatalities. Awareness of the sacrifices and challenges that these types of professionals can face may help individuals support their local first responders through donations, word of mouth, and local discounts and services.
Firefighters are a type of first responder who may respond to many types of emergencies. Their trucks often carry equipment like the "jaws of life" to save individuals from trapped cars, buildings, or objects. They might also provide scene support before paramedics or police officers arrive.
In the case of a fire, firefighters provide fire rescue to save people, animals, and objects from the potentially devastating impact of fires. For example, firefighters were some of the first to respond to the 2018 wildfire in Paradise, California, deemed the most destructive wildfire in California's history.
Although they may not work on the physical frontlines of an emergency, 911 dispatchers offer support by routing 911 calls and dispatching emergency services to a scene. They may deal with distressing and traumatic subjects daily and are trained to respond in a calm, empathetic, and neutral manner to get the most information possible from a caller. Dispatchers may take the person's name, address, age, history, and circumstances during a call. If they are in an emergency, the dispatcher may stay on the phone line and offer emotional support until first responders arrive.
911 dispatchers may be responsible for de-escalating a situation, reducing further harm, and helping an individual get support quickly. As each call can differ, the job may require patience, extensive training, and the ability to remain calm while hearing an emergency and a caller's testimony.
Domestic Violence Intervention
Many first responders are called to domestic violence situations. In these cases, they may safegaurd an individual from abuse or harm and reduce the likelihood of further violence or altercations. These scenes may be dangerous, as the offender of violence might have a weapon or act aggressively toward first responders. If a medical emergency arises, police, firefighters, and paramedics may work together to retrieve any injured survivors.
If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
First responders might also save children from abusive, unsafe, or emergency situations. For example, children who call 911 due to a crime, a parent's medical emergency, or other trauma might be met by first responders before being transported to further services or support. As they involve children, these cases can be particularly challenging for those who work in the field.
If you're a teen or child experiencing or witnessing abuse of any kind from a family or caregiver, reach out to the Child Help Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 or use the online chat feature.
Many first responders might also respond to disaster relief after a natural disaster, terrorist event, or another nationwide emergency. For example, first responders and Homeland Security teams were the first on-scene at the Boston Marathon Bombing attack in 2013.
Other disasters can include hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, or widespread fires. In these cases, varying departments might collaborate to rescue survivors and recover animals and objects from homes.
Additionally, they may transport individuals to a temporary shelter or the hospital for further care. At the hospital, nurses and triage workers may further treat those impacted medically by a disaster. First responders might also form search and rescue teams or support teams of rescuers to save individuals from disasters, wildlife situations, or other emergencies.
In some cases, first responders might offer food, water, and medical supplies to a community and disaster shelters to further support those impacted.
Resources For First Responders
As working in an emergency career can have mental and physical health impacts, there are many resources in place for brave first responders who require support, including the following:
Blue HELP First Help: A web hotline for police officers
Fire/EMS Helpline: 1-888-731-FIRE (3473) for all emergency responders
Safe Call Now: 1-206-459-3020 for first responders and family
Emergency Responder Crisis Text Line: Text BADGE to 741741
Frontline Helpline: 1-866-676-7500 for frontline workers
Copline: 1-800-267-5463 for law enforcement officers
Reaching out for support can be beneficial for anyone, including first responders. Although you may have worries about mental health stigmas or myths, reaching out for help takes courage and self-awareness, and you're not alone. Nearly 1 in 3 first responders develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to their careers.
Mental Health Support For First Responders
If you require mental health support or want to speak to a mental health provider, many therapists offer support to first responders. It can be brave to reach out for help, and a therapist can help you develop a treatment plan, better understand your symptoms, and evaluate and validate the impacts of your career on your health.
For those who are busy with work or feel unsure about commuting to a mental health provider in person, you can find counseling online. With an online platform, you can use a nickname for safety and choose whether to partake in video, phone, or live chat sessions with a licensed therapist. Additionally, studies on internet-based treatment modalities found that online therapy for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms was highly effective and had low drop-out rates compared to in-person therapy. Additionally, the treatment group showed a significant reduction in mental health symptoms as well as co-morbid depression and anxiety related to the traumatic event(s).
If you're interested in taking advantage of counseling online, consider signing up through a platform like BetterHelp. Even if you are not an emergency worker, BetterHelp and other platforms offer therapists with experience in various mental health and wellness areas.
National First Responders Day brings awareness to the lifesaving acts first responders often provide to their communities. In 2023, celebrate this day by raising awareness for the impacts these professionals have on your community and thanking a first responder in your life. As an emergency services provider, you can celebrate this day by seeking mental health care support or practicing self-care. If you're looking for further advice, consider contacting a counselor for guidance.