The Treatment Placement Specialists® team is proud to serve our country’s first responders such as police officers and firefighters. The amount of trauma experienced in the line of duty has the high potential to cause normal physical responses such as mental health issues, substance abuse, and chemical dependency. We seek to increase awareness and conversations around this matter and, when necessary, help these strong individuals find the treatment they need to manage their posttraumatic stress.
Trauma experienced in the field by police officers
Due to the nature of the duty of first responders, firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and other first responders regularly encounter life-threatening situations. These brave professionals are often forced to make life-and-death decisions, typically in the virtual blink of an eye.
In some cases, being exposed to this level of trauma can lead to the development of posttraumatic stress or PTSD. This injury can develop in the aftermath of an event that you directly experienced, witnessed, or were otherwise involved with.
Recognizing the signs & symptoms of posttraumatic stress for police officers
As is the case with most mental or behavioral health challenges, the first step in dealing with posttraumatic stress or PTSD is realizing that a problem exists. This is not as simple as it may sound, as this injury can affect different people in different ways.
However, the following are common signs that you or a colleague may be struggling with posttraumatic stress:
- Flashbacks (feeling as though you are reliving the traumatic event)
- Problems remembering the event, or unwillingness to discuss it
- Changing your behavior to avoid people or situations that remind you of the event
- Having trouble sleeping
- Being easily startled
- Feeling as though you are always in danger
- Pulling away from family and friends
Reducing the stigma of posttraumatic stress among police officers
Recognizing the existence of posttraumatic stress or PTSD is an important step. But unless that step is followed up by seeking and receiving effective care, the problem may only get worse.
For first responders, this presents a bit of a challenge.
On the positive side, as trained observers, first responders are uniquely prepared to identify problems. As professionals who are skilled at taking decisive actions to neutralize threats and promote safety, they are clearly capable of getting help.
However, first responders are also dedicated men and women who focus on the well-being of others. They take great pride in having the strength to do such demanding and essential work, and they embody the value of “service before self.” While noble and valuable, these qualities can be counterproductive when dealing with posttraumatic stress, PTSD or other effects of trauma.
This cannot be overstated: PTSD is not a sign of weakness, nor is it evidence that you or one of your colleagues lacks the fortitude that is necessary to serve as a first responder. Military heroes, decorated first responders, and devoted public servants are among the millions of people who have developed posttraumatic stress or PTSD.
If you broke your leg, you’d get it fixed so you could get back to the job.
If you were diagnosed with cancer, you’d get the best possible treatment so that you could enjoy many more years with your family, friends, and colleagues.
If you developed an injury from trauma experienced on the field, why would you do anything less than get the help you need to resume the life you deserve?
Treatment placement services for first responders
The Treatment Placement Specialists® team has dedicated liaisons who have been trained to triage cases for first responders in need of treatment. We understand the needs of public safety officers and the importance of confidentiality. Our services for first responders include:
- Access to a national network of programs for trauma, mental health issues, and addiction
- Vetting of local programs
- Guidance to patient-program matching
- Communication to appropriate groups while patient is in treatment (EAPs, unions, referring partners)
- Continuing Care Planning
Working with the TPS to find treatment options
Once you’ve identified the problem and acknowledged the need for help, the next step is to find the type and level of treatment that is best for you. This is where the Treatment Placement Specialists® can guide you in your search. Together, this determination will be made based upon the nature and severity of your symptoms, the presence of any co-occurring concerns, and most importantly, your individualized needs that make up your entire presentation.
Your options include inpatient treatment, residential care, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs, and traditional outpatient services.
Within each of these levels of care, you may participate in various types of therapy:
- Individual therapy sessions are one-on-one meetings with a trained professional who can help you process your experiences and manage your symptoms.
- Group therapy allows you to learn from the experiences and insights of others, while also sharing your thoughts and receiving feedback from an experienced counselor or therapist. Many programs offer focused groups for first responders, military members, or other professionals who are regularly exposed to trauma.
- Family therapy and related support services can help you to reconnect with loved ones, heal rifts that may have developed as a result of your PTSD, and learn to function as a more supportive and cohesive unit.
- Experiential therapies are interactive, hands-on experiences that emphasize the mind-body connection and provide you with new ways to express and address your emotions.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is a specialized form of treatment that has proved to be particularly effective at helping individuals who have been struggling with PTS.
No one level of treatment or type of care is perfect for every first responder who has developed PTS. What’s most important is finding the plan that’s right for you.