Firefighters and First Responders Need Evidence-Based Treatment: Here’s Why

Every firefighter and first responder needs support on the job. They work long hours, are away from family, and spend time supporting people in crisis for the majority of their work-day.

There are joyful moments, of course, but they spend a lot of time and energy helping people who are struggling or in need of emergency care. The strain of this on their physical and mental health can take its toll after a while.

The evidence-based treatment has been developed to reduce the risk of long-term effects from working in these fields and offers support for the journey of healing they must make to support sobriety. 


Mental Health Care

First responders are in need of supportive mental health care. The symptoms they exhibit may look different for each person, but they generally exhibit similar traits for each issue they face.

Addiction will look similar, even if nuances appear in individuals. Mental health issues may look somewhat different, but still exhibit some of the same traits.

Culturally speaking, people need treatment that is going to offer them the best support. Evidence-based treatment can provide help for people’s mental health.

Stigma is one factor that impacts getting help for mental health issues. With the right treatment, people can receive mental health care in a supportive environment and not be worried about stigma or shame.

However, in some professions like firefighters and first responders, they may experience pushback from colleagues and family. 


Common Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues among first responders can contribute to other issues like addiction. Emotional, physical, and spiritual issues can result from mental health problems.

Long shifts, working with others who have mental health issues, being around issues of trauma, and other personal health concerns contribute to high rates of mental health disorders for first responders. Vulnerable first responders may suffer from these issues prior to getting into the work and self-medicating is part of the call-of-duty for some first responders.

They find ways to respond to trauma, stress, and past issues by focusing on what they can do to alleviate having to deal with it by drinking, using substances, gambling, or myriad other ways. Common mental health concerns include:

  • PTSD: symptoms include hyperarousal, feeling on edge, insomnia, avoidance, guilt, flashbacks, or other issues associated with previous trauma
  • Anxiety: symptoms lasting six months or more can occur with social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, or phobias. May include disrupted sleep patterns, eating patterns, substance abuse, or other symptoms
  • Depressive symptoms, lethargy, lack of feeling joy, guilt, insomnia, and other challenges can be driven by PTSD or made worse by it
  • Co-occurring disorders/dual diagnosis: mental health conditions with alcohol or substance use disorder (SUD) can co-occur. This means the person has them at the same time, sometimes as a means to cope with one, they do the other (mental health symptoms are severe enough to want to drink to cope, etc). 


Common Barriers to Treatment

When it comes to getting help, firefighters and first responders may be the hardest groups to get support. Denial is the most common issue people think of when they consider barriers to treatment.

It is very true for firefighters and first responders. Everyone in the family can be in denial in various forms and afraid to address it head-on.

Stigma on the job can be another barrier to treatment that is hard to deal with. Avoiding treatment can only make matters worse but it is hard to fight back against these barriers. Money, worries about leaving family behind as a caregiver, and other reasons may be concerns a person has about going to treatment.


Benefits of Evidence-based Treatment

Evidence-based treatment, or practice, simply means following actions based on previously observed effects. This means, when a program is based on results that previous people have used in that program and had success, this is evidence-based.

It means they are not going trial-by-error when using programs or therapies to help people, especially in addiction and mental health treatment. Scientifically sound treatment or research looks at systematic and objective methods of knowledge that is obtained in the data.

They also look at the design of the research to make sure there are not flaws like overestimating the success of the research results or other issues. They use appropriate data analysis methods and peer review to build on findings.

In treatment for addiction, it means people understand the chronic nature of addiction as a disorder. It is a continuing addiction that a person can enter recovery from but requires additional help like detox and treatment. 

Programs that offer good, sound theory and practice together are said to be evidence-based if they base it on current research, measure success rates in a significant way, customize treatment for each person, and use medically supported treatments and proven practices for therapy. Before entering a program, it helps to look at their modalities of treatment, therapies, and offerings to make sure they are viable for treatment and recovery. Look over aftercare models and success rates to see how they measure up against others with the same programs. This will help determine if this program is a good fit.

Forge helps Veterans, First Responders, and their families find the support they need with evidence-based practices and treatment. If you are ready for treatment or have questions, call today: 1-888-224-7312