Taking Care of First Responder Mental Health

First Responders are our first line of emergency help.  The job of an EMT, firefighter or police officer can be traumatic and their judgment must be infallible in those critical moments.  However, we must remember that First Responders are people, and they are not immune to addiction and struggles with substance abuse.  Luckily, there are facilities across America, like First Responders First located in Angeles National Forest, dedicated to providing safe, trustworthy support for any First Responder struggling with substance abuse.

There are many reasons why First Responders are reluctant to seek out support for their mental health.  There are still many stigmas around mental health which can lead to a fear of judgment, especially in a position held in such high regard.  First Responders struggling with addiction need to know that they are not alone and that quality help and support is out there.

The Time is Now for Your Mental Health to Come First

Remember, that addiction is a mental health disorder and there are federal laws in place such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that protect you as a professional.  You will likely find that the people who work with you care deeply about you and want what is best for you.  If you are a First Responder struggling with addiction or substance abuse the time is now to put your mental health first.

As previously mentioned, the job of a First Responder can be traumatic.  However, it can also be dangerous and lead to many injuries on the job.  Alcohol has long been identified as a way First Responders would self medicate, however, opioid abuse has also risen in recent years.  No matter what your struggle, there is help available to you.

Addiction can be a lonely illness to confront for First Responders.  It is a profession where you are always needed to be strong for others.  Often times, First Responders struggling with mental health issues keep their struggles silent due to the preconceived notion that they are letting others down.  The guilt can be a heavy burden to bear if you try to confront it alone.  Just remember, there is help.

How First Responders Can Get Help

Once you can accept that you are in need of help and that you are not alone, the next step is to put a support team together and access the incredible help that is out there for First Responders.  Inpatient rehabilitation for addiction treatment is one of the most effective avenues that you can take.  It is also important to note, that there are rehabilitation centers that focus on supporting First Responders who are confronting their substance abuse.

Take, for example, First Responders First, the 1,100-acre rehabilitation facility overlooking the majestic Angeles National Forest.  This facility is focused on First Responders and states that it, “will come at little or no cost to most First Responders.”

First Responders First has a wide variety of treatments that they utilize to help support your recovering from substance abuse.  These treatments include detoxification, mindfulness, equine therapy, the 12-Step Program, and even wolf therapy.  That’s right, wolf therapy.   First Responders First has teamed up with the Shadowland Foundation to develop a unique and innovative new form of therapy that was designed specifically to help First Responders.  According to the Shadowland Foundation, “by hand raising a pack of our own, socializing them to people from an early age, letting them touch your hearts as they have touched ours, we inadvertently created a ‘wolf therapy’ environment for people in pain.”

There are so many therapies and supports that can help you get the mental health treatments you need.  Remain open to every treatment, you are worth being healthy again.

Getting Back to Work

The ultimate goal of getting treatment for substance abuse and addiction is to get you back to living your best, healthy life.  Most rehabs will set First Responders up with outpatient treatments and supports.  These supports can include weekly counseling, a sponsor in the 12-step program and assisted living as you assimilate back into your daily routine.  Along the process, it’s important to realize that you are not alone as a First Responder struggling with substance abuse.  There will be many support groups and people available to help support you every step of the way.

Addiction is a life-long illness, but it is manageable and you can still be a successful First Responder who is respected by your peers.  You are a hero, but even heroes need support.  Seeking out treatment for your mental health and struggles with addiction will save your life.  As a First Responder, you know as well as anyone that by saving your life, you’re also saving countless more.