Heroes will pay for emotional support for first responders in Crow Wing County (we hope to grow soon!): Fire and rescue, dispatch, law enforcement (including probation and corrections), EMTs. We will seek to raise mental health awareness and reduce the stigma through trainings and presentations. We hope to reduce barriers as it's completely separate from employers, free for the responder, and there's less need for diagnoses and paperwork (insurance companies require a diagnoses).
It will have limited paperwork, less invasive diagnoses, no need to go through any employer program... insurance and EAP companies have a need for paerwork, diagnoses, and/or an explanation of how the person is affected. This creates a barrier to first responders seeking help. They want privacy, and many fear retaliation and/or that it may affect their job. Many insurance and EAP companies have a limited number of sessions, and insurance often comes with high cost to the responder via deductible or co-pay.
Why is it needed?
First responders are routinely and repeatedly exposed to traumatic incidents, incidents that have effects on psychological and physical wellbeing. There are major incidents, but there is also cumulative everyday trauma, stressors, and these can be just as harmful. Left untreated, both are linked to higher rates of depression, divorce, substance abuse, and infidelity. Biomed central states all firefighters, law enforcement, and paramedics will at some point suffer from PTSD from both major traumas and microtraumas. Officer rate of suicides are higher than deaths in the line of duty nationwide.
Massachusetts nonprofit, Blue HELP, found that officer suicides rose from 143 in 2016 to 228 in 2019 . This is believed to be a conservative tally. Burn out estimates from Firefighter and Behavioral Alliance suggest 400 firefighter an EMT deaths occur by suicide each year. Suicides among police at 1.5x the national rate and somewhere between 4 and 14% of all officers are estimated to have suicidal ideation. Current estimates that fire/ems suicides are undercounted by as much as 60%. Alcohol abuse is involved in more than 85% of officer suicides.
Depression and PTSD effect 30% of nations first responders, compared to 20% of population. 3.7% of Americans contemplated suicide, vs 37% for fire and ems professionals. .5% Americans attempted, vs 6.6% firefighters and EMS professionals. Half of male firefighters and 39.5% of female firefighters report binge drinking. 40% EMTS report engaging in high risk alcohol use. After 2 years on the Police force, 27% rookies go on to develop alcohol use disorder, 4 years on force this increases to 36%.
On average, 10 correctional officers die in the line of duty per year, while 156 correctional officers commit suicide per year. In a study done in 2012, the researchers found that 27% of correctional staff are diagnosed with PTSD and a 26% with depression. 10% of correctional officers have considered suicide, and retired correctional officers are at 31%. Half of the officers stated that the don’t feel safe at work. 20% reported and inability to find pleasure in anything, 50% had no energy or were excessively tired, 44% reported headaches.
First responders often deny or resist seeking mental health care due to stigma. They have fear of ridicule, prejudice, discrimination, and labeling. In studies, some officers report that they believe what they say to the therapist will get back to supervisors, colleagues, could get them ruled unfit for duty, thus many don’t seek help. Many receive mandatory critical incident debriefings but they don’t address secondary trauma. In addition to those barriers, many find it difficult to seek help due to societal expectations, idealizations of these people as strong or tough, and seeing mental health as weakness (good therapy), fear of losing fire arm, and fear of losing identify as first responder.
Heroes Program seeks to reduce these barriers in hopes more responders will get the help they need.
Thanks in advance for your contribution to this cause! Feel free to take a peek at our website to learn more about our cause!