First responders are held to such a high standard in many aspects of their jobs and lives. It takes a special kind of person full of bravery and strength to run toward danger and uncertainty while others are running in the opposite direction. However, that mentality might be the reason that is swaying first responders away from getting the life-saving mental help they need. This is a harmful stigma within the first responder community that needs to be changed to improve the mental health of those protecting us in our community.
The ‘Warrior Mentality’
There is this concept called the “warrior mentality” that many first responders adopt into their personalities. It is the idea that you won’t quit. You will never give up. You will do whatever it takes to come out on top. To win the fight. To never accept defeat. To complete the mission. They are taught this to save their lives. However, it has created a detrimental mentality that prevents first responders from reaching out for help when struggling with their mental health.
When you picture a warrior, heroism, bravery, and strength come to mind. These adjectives best describe first responders. They dedicate their lives to defending the communities they serve. However, if they cannot care for themselves, they become unable to accomplish the one job they set out to do.
Go It Alone
Every first responder carries a pillar of strength that seeps into their private lives. They believe they should be able to address problems when they arise outside of the workplace. It is more difficult for them to get assistance when dealing with addiction, substance abuse, and mental health problems brought on by the stress of their jobs. They are highly valued by their family, friends, and community. It would be a sign of weakness for them to admit that they require assistance. As first responders, they take pleasure in their warrior attitude, and this goes against everything they stand for.
For example, from their first day in the police academy, soon-to-be officers are told that their number one objective is to go home to their families at the end of every shift. This creates a sense of fear and uncertainty in their job. This can bleed into their personal life, creating a life on the edge and a constant feeling like they have to protect themselves and those around them.
Warrior Mentality vs. Guardian Mentality
A new theology has emerged, encouraging a slight shift from a warrior mentality to a “guardian mentality.” Embracing more of a guardian mentality could help shift the mindset of first responders to encourage them to not only help protect the community but also help themselves if they struggle with mental health issues.
Develop a Better Relationship With the Community
Protecting fellow community members is important to the guardian mentality. Instead of depending on force or other enforcement methods, first responders with this approach place more emphasis on developing and maintaining connections with the citizens of their community.
With this shift in mindset and leaning more toward a guardian, first responders, specifically police officers, might be less likely to believe that they can’t back down and can’t be vulnerable. This will help create a safe space for the community to be comfortable around law enforcement, it will also create a safe place for officers to understand that they are not forced into feeling like they always have to be tough and rugged. They can be vulnerable and open, hopefully opening the door for conversation about mental health within the world of first responders.
Stigmas Among First Responders
There is this stigma among first responders that they cannot speak up about their mental health for fear of retribution, lack of confidentiality, or even that they aren’t tough enough or strong enough to do their job. However, this is just not true. Taking care of mental health is just as important as taking care of physical health.
We equip first responders with the most up-to-date physical equipment to perform their jobs to the best of their ability. We should be putting the same amount of effort into equipping them with the best mental equipment to help them succeed in their personal and professional lives. That starts with shifting away from this warrior mentality that is causing our first responders to feel like they cannot be vulnerable enough to seek treatment when they are struggling with their mental health. It also takes advocating for mental health care among first responders in the community.
The warrior mentality is a mentality that most first responders embrace as they enter the world of saving lives. At Acera Health, we understand that this mentality can be harmful. Such a mentality prevents first responders from reaching out for help when they might be struggling with their mental health. They think they have to be strong and tough 24/7 and aren’t allowed to feel like they need help, or else they have failed. This is not true. It’s time we change the narrative, and we can help. We believe that first responders should be allowed the same access to mental health care as anyone else. Let’s end the stigma together. If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t wait and please reach out for help. Remember, heroes need help sometimes, too. To find out more about our first responder’s programs, reach out to us today by calling (949) 647-4090.