When someone is a first responder, it means sacrificing a lot. The most common sacrifice is their time and mental health. When someone is on the front line of a disaster, it can cause deep trauma from what they have witnessed. Stress is also common for those in this line of work. Finding time to get help can be a daunting task. A stable schedule for a first responder is practically non-existent, as many are on call at all times. Disasters can strike at any moment, and they need to be ready to give their all. That makes typical treatment appointments difficult at best. Many mental health treatment facilities are only open during daylight hours and only during specific days of the week. Sometimes a first responder may be on call at night, so they often sleep through prime operating hours for most treatment centers. This can make getting treatment as a first responder difficult.
The Rise of First Responder-Centric Treatment Programs
With mental health awareness increasing across America in the past decade, some have begun to research the best ways to provide care for the specific needs of first responders. The result is treatment programs specifically tailored to this group. For example, Acera Health has a responder-centric treatment program called Command Post Wellness. This treatment program helps first responders get the treatment they need despite their schedules.
Many other mental health care facilities besides Acera Health have begun to offer specialized treatment programs. These can be found by calling around or searching the internet. Some employers that employ first responders may even closely work with these facilities to provide care to their employees.
Support groups and networks exist to aid responders in finding the tools they need to help themselves. Sometimes, just having someone that understands what you are going through is enough. In other cases, such as with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI), it helps to have trusted people that can point you to where you need to go next for treatment.
There is no shame in someone taking a leave of absence to care for their mental health. A first responder should not be judged for wanting to take the time to care for themselves. This is especially true if they are struggling with something like substance abuse disorder (SUD), which often requires time in a residential treatment facility. Finding time for treatment as a first responder is crucial.
Finding Online Treatment as a First Responder
Smartphones can allow people to get treatment in the comfort of their homes or even on the road if need be. Such treatments are done through what is called telemedicine or telepsychiatry. This allows a treatment provider to connect directly with their client and give them treatment over the internet. The most common way to do this is through a video call, where you can see your provider as they talk to you. People may also receive treatment over the phone or through a dedicated chat client.
Telemedicine is wonderful, but it can only do so much. A person who needs a physical exam will still need to see a doctor to have it performed. However, telepsychiatry can be extremely helpful in providing first responders with vital tools to help their mental health. This includes psychotherapy, medication management, mental health check-ins, and guided meditation.
The most important aspect of telemedicine is that someone doesn’t need to go into an office for an appointment. They can even talk with their treatment provider as they travel. As long as someone has access to an internet connection, they can get help for their mental health. Many first responders use this fact and telepsychiatry when they cannot make it to conventional in-person appointments.
How to Find Treatment as a First Responder
Everyone must contact their local mental health care facility immediately if they are struggling with their mental health. Even if the facility doesn’t have a specific program, they can point people to other facilities that can help. In emergencies, it’s important to call the local hospital, which can direct individuals to 24-hour treatment facilities.
You can also search online or call around to find treatment programs available specifically for first responders. Many support groups and networks may know of specific facilities that can give you the treatment you need and deserve.
Likewise, if you know someone who is a first responder struggling with their mental health, offer them your support. Remind them that nobody is an island, and it’s okay to ask for help. Many people don’t seek help because they are afraid of judgment. However, everyone deserves quality, compassionate mental health care. That includes yourself and those who you love and care about. Treatment options for first responders are out there, and recovery is possible for everyone.
It can be difficult for anyone to find treatment for a mental health disorder. It’s even more difficult when it comes to a first responder. Their lives are busy at best and hectic at worst. So how does a first responder find the time to get the mental health care they need? Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we offer a specialized treatment program for first responders called Command Post Wellness. This treatment program works with first responders and their schedules to get them the treatment they need and deserve. If you are a first responder or have a loved one who needs help, reach out to us today by calling (949) 647-4090.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.