Federal agencies Fire/emergency medical services

New for first responders: SAMHSA resources on managing behavioral health issues

first responder
Photo: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Rockville, MD — The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has introduced several resources intended to help first responders manage behavioral health issues that may arise from exposure to traumatic situations.

In an Aug. 20 press release, SAMHSA cites a recent national survey showing that 19 percent of firefighters and emergency medical service personnel reported having suicidal thoughts, while 27 percent said they had dealt with substance misuse issues. Further, 81 percent of respondents said they feared that asking for help would make them appear “weak” or “unfit for duty.”

Aiming to help mitigate these concerns, SAMHSA is offering:

  • A free online training course that provides insight into topics such as occupational stressors, mental health and substance misuse issues, and healthy coping mechanisms.
  • An issue of its quarterly research journal, The Dialogue, covering the challenges that first responders face on the job and healthy ways to confront them.
  • An issue of its Supplemental Research Bulletin that focuses on behavioral health issues, risk and protective factors, and interventions designed to decrease behavioral health concerns and boost resilience.

“First responders are always at the forefront of each incident or disaster, and they ensure the safety and well-being of the population,” the bulletin states. “They are, however, at great danger of being exposed to potentially traumatic situations that pose risk of harm to them or the people under their care.

“To improve the behavioral health of the first responders, a cooperative effort is needed between organizational leadership and co-workers to establish a work environment that provides adequate training and ensures the resiliency and health of first responders by protecting them from overwork and excessive stress and supporting them in seeking help when needed.”

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