Depression Among First Responders
First responders may carry the greatest risk for mental disorders in the country. According to the Journal of Emergency Medicine (2020), “About 30 percent of first responders develop mental health disorders, including depression, Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as compared with 20 percent in the general population.” It’s no wonder first responders are experiencing a rise in suicide rates despite some efforts to provide suicide prevention and mental health support. With the trauma first responders experience and the secondary trauma this causes, they face a mountain of stress and there’s only so much a hotline can do. (Especially if the sufferer doesn’t call.)
Signs of Depression
It’s important to know how to identify possible depression, both for yourself and for a loved one. Some signs of depression may be: extreme fatigue, loss of enthusiasm, feelings of guilt and hopelessness, loss of appetite, irritability, trouble with memory or concentration, sleep loss, or headaches. If any of these are noticed, it’s good to check in on the person experiencing them. If this is you, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk to someone. Frequent check-ins are important. You check your equipment; yourself is the most important equipment you have!
How Can Coaching Help
Those who face depression or secondary trauma or any form of stress can feel alone and overwhelmed. Having a coach can be both cathartic and encouraging. In coaching, we strive to let the coaching partner express all they need to in a safe and judgment-free environment. Coaching allows a person to explore possibilities, see from new perspectives, and take chances with ideas they may not feel confident about. When coaching partners have an opportunity to express this to their coaches, they open up and make new realizations, seeing new possibilities. The best part is the encouragement this builds as the ideas come from the coaching partners themselves. They see they can do this; they can move through this difficult spot in life!
When Coaching is Not Enough
Sometimes, the hurt is so deep that coaching isn’t enough. If a trauma is triggering a deeper trauma or the depression strikes so deeply that the coaching partner can’t see past the incident, therapy may be in order. A good coach will recognize this and know when to suggest more help, possibly even medical help. Some wounds are too deep to coach through. Some people will see a therapist to get to a certain point before coming to a coach. Some will see them concurrently. Every situation is different, but each must be worked through carefully.
How to Reach Out
The suicide rate is dramatically rising and not just among working first responders. Retired first responders are still struggling despite no longer being on the job. As mentioned in a previous blog, first responders are at greater risk for suicide that on-the-job deaths. More departments are adding resources for their first responders but it’s not enough. The public, all of us, need to keep up the conversation. We need to share what we know and stay vigilant of one another. If you feel coaching might be right for you or you’re not sure, reach out to us at First Responder Coaching. We can help you navigate the right path and get you the resources you need to find the help you deserve.