Throughout my entire career I have been dedicated to working with trauma with an emphasis on treating military trauma. This has evolved over the last few years and I have been honored to begin doing a lot of work with first responders.
The further I get into this world and their traumata; I realize that they are a very overlooked and ignored population. Their trauma often goes unnoticed or unrecognized since there is so much emphasis on military trauma.
First responders have now taken the place of the disenfranchised, underserved largest trauma group and system, much as the military was since the very beginning. One of the biggest difference between the two is that now there is such a public education and push for creating awareness around military PTSD. This has yet to happen for first responders.
There remains such a huge stigma that often stops first responders from reaching out but an even more significant dilemma is for those that have the courage to reach out, they can’t find providers that actually understand trauma, giving them the treatment they need. As a result, first responders lack the education and awareness needed to gain control over their trauma reactions. And thus, the silence continues.
To add more, first responder’s levels of suicide are skyrocketing in the same pattern that service members have. Yet, this is also a huge secret that is kept. Within my private practice, every first responder I have worked with knows at minimum one friend, brother/sister or partner who has killed themselves. This is a pandemic occurring and absolutely no one is talking about it. While this is happening, rather than exposing this devastating truth, most departments insulate and distract from the suicides often calling them a death from natural causes…an officer who is depressed and overdosing on his pain medication is not a natural cause nor is one of them eating their bullet.
These truths are most definitely heartbreaking. First responders absolutely need help. As a means to assist in creating awareness, I am eager to be announcing an exciting event I’m facilitating through the Salt Lake Police Department on November 8th for Fire, Police and Dispatch including a plus one to really take the veil off of trauma in their culture. The evening will offer an opportunity to truly understand trauma including the symptoms, neurobiology and treatments. Hopefully, this is the first of many needed steps to break the silence and get our first responders the help they need. If you are a first responder or know one who could benefit, please pass this along and reach out for more details.