PTSD and how it affects EMS personnel

In a article by Sean P. Hulsman, M.Ed, EMT-P, he discusses the real world effects of PTSD on EMS workers.

One of the interesting points that were shared is that in 2017 there were more law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers that died by suicide than in the line of duty.  A study revealed that about 45% of first responders reported symptoms of mental health disorders including PTSD, depression, and panic disorder.

Industry leaders and even politicians are now recognizing that these are real issues in the lives of first responders and the stigma is fading.

Many agencies, hospitals, and clinics are now contracting with Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to provide help to staff at little or no cost to the staff.

There are some things you can do to reduce the cumulative stress that comes with the EMS related jobs and the article did a great job discussing them:

  • Get regular exercise. Exercise is universally considered to be good not only for physical health, but for mental well-being. Most psychiatric practitioners will prescribe it for their patients with anxiety and depression.
  • Learn meditation. You do not have to be a Buddhist monk to practice mindfulness meditation, nor do you even need to be religious. Mindfulness meditation is a discipline which teaches you to be present in the moment. It can have tremendous benefits for those suffering with PTSD. There are many apps that teach and facilitate mindfulness meditation, and there are plenty of people out there from whom you can learn the practice.
  • Get to sleep. Sleep deprivation, including poor sleep, has been associated with disorders including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Expert opinions vary to some degree, but seven to nine hours of sleep per day seems to be the general recommendation for adults.
  • Eat well. The benefits of healthy eating are now so unquestionable that mentioning diet seems superfluous. 

Still many of us fail to eat right and it thus bears repetition. Caffeine is a tool, not a food group.
Exercise, meditation, sleep and a good diet all promote a healthy lifestyle, and can be the difference between a long rewarding career and an abbreviated stay fraught with emotional or physical pain.

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