Sounding the alarm: Program promotes mental wellness for first responders
An innovative project for firefighters in Tallahassee Florida:
Firefighters love their job, but it comes with hazards that not only threaten their physical safety, but also their emotional and mental well-being. Statistics show many firefighters struggle with depression and even suicide as a result of the trauma they are exposed to on the job. According to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, first responders are more likely to die by suicide than on duty, and rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorders among firefighters have been found as much as five-times higher than that of the general population.
An innovative project was developed that provides trained peer supporters, a wellness app and a website. Mental health resources, as well as first responder proficient telehealth counseling services, are provided. There was a lack of mental health resources for first responders in the area due to a shortage of health providers. The project is open to paid, volunteer, and retired firefighters.
“We have put together a 24/7 virtual clinic where the firefighter can call and they’ll be able to talk to somebody when they need to,” said O’Dare. “That’s another big consideration when you’re working with first responders, is that many of them work shift schedules, and our telehealth is staffed by licensed professionals who are first responder proficient, meaning they have experience working with first responders, which is important because they do have unique needs.”