First Responders Need Support Too
(March 3, 2022)
A little about me:
A therapist once told me, “You can have another career.” I was not so sure of that considering I was in my early 40’s. I had a career in law enforcement for 17 years that ended when I went on disability for a duty related injury.
As with many who are first responders, I had witnessed things in my career that lead to PTSD. I coped fairly well when I was working, or at least that is what I made myself believe. However, when I was physically injured at the end of my career, I lost one of my coping skills which was working out. I went on disability due to this injury and I lost my other coping skill which was working a lot of hours. Add to that, I lost my support system.
Life became very rocky after that and I turned to substances to cope, which only masked the symptoms. It took a few years, but I found a therapist who had similar experiences who was able to help me.
She is the one who told me I could have another career.
I went to Parkland and took a career assessment which said I would be good at being an electrician, mechanic, plumber, or a mental health counselor. After giving it some thought, I decided I wanted to give back what was given to me. At 44 I went to grad school and 4 years later I graduated with my master's degree in Mental Health Counseling.
I worked at the Prairie Center and then Rosecrance before working at Champaign Counseling. My clients at the Prairie Center and Rosecrance came from all walks of life. Some had very little education and others had PhD’s. Some struggled obtaining employment due to criminal justice involvement and others had careers, such as law enforcement, fire fighters, EMT’s, military and various positions in the medical field.
Experiences of First Responders
Providing therapy to clients who were first responders confirmed what I already knew to be true.
- All had experienced trauma in their careers.
- Most said they would have asked for help sooner but did not due to the stigma.
- Many said if they reached out for help and their employer found out, they believed their job would have been in jeopardy.
Silence destroys lives. Connection heals lives.
We often look at physical health and mental health as different, but they are not. If you break your arm, you go to the doctor and eventually heal. If you suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, you may suffer in silence, have feelings of shame or guilt, and not seek help due to fear and/or the stigma.
The suicide rate for first responders is frightening.
- Police and firefighters are more likely to die of suicide than in the line of duty.
- EMS commits suicide at rates 1.39% more than the public.
- The above statistics are likely under-reported.
Sometimes we use ways of coping that we think are working but are making matters worse and disconnects us from our support. Some examples are using the following in excess:
- Prescription medications
- Illegal drugs
What can you do?
“In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.” - Brené Brown
Your story deserves to be heard by others! You deserve to have connections with others to talk about your experiences. In therapy with me, you will be heard non-judgmentally. Do the thing that is hardest to do…
Ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness.
- Speak to a mental health therapist and learn ways to cope with symptoms. You can reach out for an appointment with me at (217) 203-2008.
- Identify those who you can connect with to share experiences.
- Contact the Hero Support Line to speak to other first responders with similar experiences. (https://herofirst.org/)
- Law Enforcement officers can contact the Copline and speak to trained retired officers. (https://www.copline.org/)
Start your recovery journey today!
In the beginning I shared a little bit about my journey for a couple of reasons. I wanted to introduce myself, including my journey to becoming a mental health therapist. I also wanted anyone who may be struggling, whether you are a first responder or not, to know it is possible to recover from mental health issues if you ask for help. Please call today, 217-203-2008 to make an appointment. Let’s start this journey of recovery together!
If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that you can use to get help: The National Suicide Hotline- 800-273-8255
The Crisis Text Line- Text HOME to 741741
The Champaign County Crisis Hotline (central Illinois specific) 217-359-4141
If you are looking for a therapist, give us a call today at 217-203-2008 or send us an email.
Is Therapy Right for You? - Champaign Counseling LLC
Tips to Manage a Mental Health Crisis - Champaign Counseling LLC
HERO FAQs: Hope and Help for First Responders — Hero First
Alcohol and Substance Abuse Among First Responders | Bulletproof First Responder First Responders and Mental Health | Psychology Today
ChampaignCounseling.com is an informational site. The resources on this site are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional.
Champaign Counseling LLC cannot be held responsible for the use of the information provided. Please always consult a trained mental health professional before making any decision regarding treatment of yourself or others.
Self-help information and information from the Internet is useful, but it is not a substitute for professional assistance. Please seek professional help immediately:
- if you have thoughts of killing (or otherwise harming) yourself or others;
- if you are gravely disabled (unable to care for yourself);
- if you are abusing substances;
- or if you or someone else is in any danger of harm.
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