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Advocates push for more accessibility of mental health services for first responders

30% of first responders struggle with some type of mental health condition
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Posted at 6:20 PM, Nov 24, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — These professionals – firefighters, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel – see and experience traumatic events on a regular basis.

“They’re a profession that would never hesitate to tell you or me to call if they need help. We want to convey that same message to public safety,” said Anna Fitch Cori with First Responder Health and Wellness.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that 30% of first responders struggle with some type of mental health condition such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.

“So, for us, it’s incredibly important that when we do have these bad calls, we utilize these resources that are available to us to make sure that we’re letting it out,” said Denis Lenehan who is a firefighter EMT.

A study looking at suicide found firefighters had a higher rate of suicidal ideation than the general public and between 125 and 300 police officers commit suicide every year.

“What we’re seeing is an accumulation of trauma over the course of someone’s career and it has an increasing impact over time,” said Cori.

That impact is compounded by work schedules that do not provide first responders the time to address their mental health needs. That is why FirstNet Health and Wellness is advocating for the accessibility of mental health services for first responders in the Tampa Bay area.

“We’re trying to take some of those resources and make them available on First Net devices.”

On these devices, first responders will have access to different resources and applications to aid in maintaining their mental health. One of the apps is called “Responders Relate.”

“It provides anonymous peer-to-peer support for first responders. They even have a therapy dog program. "That deploys therapy dogs across the nation. There's 32 of them."

For more information on FirstNet, click here.