The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on EMS and other first responders, many of whom have already faced so much trauma in their industry.
That’s what a recent survey released by the state’s Department of Health Services said.
A survey of approximately 1,467 people by Project HEROES (Houston Emergency Opioid Engagement System) shows statistics on how the pandemic has affected the Texas EMS workforce and other first responders:
- 60% of investigators said they currently have symptoms of a significant mental disorder, frequently including physical symptoms, sleep disturbances, and anger.
- 58% of respondents who suffer from or have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder are or have been treated.
- 24% of respondents with a Substance Use Disorder (Substance Use Disorder) requested treatment.
- Over 50% said they binge on alcohol.
The DSHS said the results are not surprising but are “concerning”.
Local mental health advocates for first responders echo the same reaction.
“It’s not a normal 9 to 5 job. Our people – when they jump on that ambulance or the first responders jump on police devices or vehicles – they don’t know what to expect in the next 10 hours. , 12 hour or 24 hour, ”said Desiree Partain, Hope Squad leader for MedStar.
Hope Squad is MedStar’s own peer support group, which started about two years ago to help solve these types of issues in their community.
“Our mission is to deal with anything related to mental health. We are addressing suicide, suicide prevention – our focus, especially over the past two years, has been well-being and resilience,” said Partain.
She said they had also conducted their own investigation recently, working with One Tribe Foundation and UT Health Science Center in Houston, finding similar results due to the additional stressors of the pandemic.
“One of the things we talk to people about here is that you got into this industry because you wanted to help people. You have that servant heart. And what I find is that you are all great for taking care of others, but sometimes you it stinks to take care of yourself. So let’s change that, “said Partain.” As first responders, we are 4-5 times more likely to have PTSD, suicidal ideation or some form of mental health problem. Knowing that, it is so important for us as a community of first responders to make this a priority. “
MedStar’s Hope Squad is available 24/7 for their team. They are trained to identify when people may be in trouble.
They want other agencies to form similar squads and peer counseling resources.
“I guess my question to agencies, organizations, and government departments is, what are you doing about it? Talking is one thing, “Partain said.” My other tip is to find people who are really passionate about the topic, that they can relate to or that there is a driving force in it that can keep the fire burning. We know that with mental health it’s not just one thing, peer support or counseling. It’s really a network of resources to find people within organizations that are passionate about the topic and keep that momentum going. “
If you are a first responder and need assistance, you can contact Partain at Hope Squad at [email protected]
DSHS also wants to help first responders and teach them to recognize, approach and support.
- To acknowledge that there is free CE SUB training in the first responder workforce.
- Approach: Share / call the HEROES helpline, you can discuss advice privately and confidentially as well as request treatment.
- Support: Provide / accept support throughout the healing process.
If you or someone you know has mental health or addiction issues, you can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This number is for everyone, including first responders.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “Home” to 741741.