How does Counselling work with First Responders?
If you are a first responder affected by trauma, it can seem difficult to come forward. But trying to ignore what you’re going through only increases your stress and allows the problem to become more entrenched and tougher to treat. It can also lead you to try to self-medicate the distressing feelings with food or drugs or alcohol—and that can lead to a whole other set of problems, including addiction.
Specialized, confidential treatment for first responders does exist, and this is what it can help you understand:
You aren’t alone. About one in five people experiences a mental health issue in any given year, research shows. And the extraordinary stressors that first responders face boost that risk.
Trauma is a normal human response to an abnormal situation. It would be strange, after all, if you had no negative reaction to putting your life at risk each day or seeing terrible things happen to people and being, at times, powerless to help. Understanding this allows you to move from a mindset of “what’s wrong with me?” to a more empowering “this is what’s going on with me.”
Trauma is better understood as an injury to the brain than an illness. In fact, some groups prefer the term post-traumatic stress injury to post-traumatic stress disorder. Left unaddressed, however, that injury can lead to illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
We are all affected by trauma in different ways, but each of us can build a resilience to it. This is achieved primarily by working on your connections with others. The more supportive, caring, trustworthy people you have in your life, the more able you are to cope with the experiences that can lead to trauma. Another important aspect is learning how to manage feelings, improving communication skills, and developing more realistic and positive ways of viewing yourself and your experiences.
Another bonus to getting help for trauma is this: It’s not just you who benefits. You family, your friends—all the people who are closest to you and are often the first to notice your struggles—will gain much from the improved relationship you’ve built with yourself. It also helps your fellow first responders, who may be suffering silently in exactly the same way. When you allow yourself to be helped, you make it okay for them to get help, too.