Firefighters’ duties are among the toughest to follow. Witnessing destruction and loss of lives on a regular basis adversely affects their mental and emotional health. Now, a new survey gives insight into the daily challenges faced by members of this community. According to the survey by NBC-owned stations, in partnership with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), a majority of participants reported that traumatic experiences had impacted their mental health.
While 27 percent participants struggled with substance abuse, 19 percent experienced suicidal thoughts, the survey found. A whopping 65 percent respondents said they were haunted by memories of emergency calls, whereas 59 percent had relationship issues. The online survey involving 7,000 firefighters was aimed at hearing directly from them about how the post-traumatic stress impacted their life. Questions were also posed to find out about the services available for their help.
“What this study does is really bring home the numbers that we already knew were out there, that fire fighters are suffering from PTSD and other behavioral health disorders. And more importantly, there’s a stigma attached to seeking help,” said Jim Brinkley, director of Health and Safety for the IAFF.
It is not easy for firefighters to deal with co-occurring disorders — addiction as well as mental health issues – as they find it difficult to admit they have a problem because of many factors. They would not like to tarnish an image of invincibility, nor do they want to appear as misfits. Besides, the social stigma associated with dual diagnosis prevents them from seeking help.
Most of the firefighters who responded to the survey admitted that they did not seek help for their mental and substance use disorders. While 81 percent said they were scared of being branded as weak or unfit for duty, if they asked for assistance, 71 percent did not use services provided under the employee assistance program (EAP) for mental problems. Significantly, those who used the EAP, 63 percent of them said it was not helpful.
The survey discovered that even a firefighter having spent more than two decades in the service is not immune to developing mental problems. This was the case of Captain Jacques Roy who has an experience of more than 25 years as a firefighter in Stamford, Connecticut. Roy thought that he could handle anything until that fateful day when a devastating fire claimed lives of three kids and their grandparents. “I was the guy who couldn’t hack it. I was the guy who needed help. I never thought it would be me. But it was me,” said Roy.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 8.2 million Americans aged 18 and above were suffering from both any mental illness (AMI) and substance use disorders (SUDs) in the past year. Besides, an estimated 2.6 million adults had co-occurring serious mental illness (SMI) and SUDs in the past year. However, co-occurring disorders – commonly known as dual diagnosis – are treatable mental conditions.
A leading mental health care provider and addiction treatment specialist, Sovereign Health of Florida is a leading dual diagnosis treatment center. Basis one’s symptoms of the co-occurring illness, our dual diagnosis treatment programs include detoxification and individual or group therapy. We also provide alternative therapies like yoga, meditation, art or music therapy to treat a patient holistically. Our treatment in Florida involves a multidisciplinary approach to creating tailor-made programs for each patient. For more information on our state-of-the-art dual diagnosis treatment facilities, call our 24/7 helpline number today. You can even chat online with one of our counselors for further assistance.
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