A study last year found that first responders are more likely to die from suicide than in the line of duty.
The suicide rate among police, fire, and EMS workers continues to rise. Now, some lawmakers are looking to do something about it.
A pair of bills are being introduced to help first responders deal with the trauma they encounter on a daily basis. Supporters say addressing these mental health issues is long overdue.
Assistant EMS Chief Nathan Harig of Cumberland Goodwill EMS tells us, “You can go from maybe having a massive pileup on the interstate that we have to treat some really critical patients at, then we’re going to go to a nursing home and treat an older lady who may be toward the end of life. There’s just this whole switch of emotions that take place, that can take a lot of tolls on providers.”
Which is why Harig says many first responders deal with mental health issues that can often go ignored by the public. “…They only see us when we treat them immediately in the field. They don’t realize that we might go back to a station and we might be carrying very mental, vivid images.”
Lawmakers in the State House now introducing a pair of bills to address those issues.
Representative Mike Schlossberg tells us, “The stresses that our first responders face are greater today than ever.
One establishes a mental wellness and stress management protocol, giving first responders access to trauma awareness training, peer counseling, and a helpline, all paid for by increasing a fee on speeding tickets and DUI arrests. The other bill allows first responders to receive workers compensation for PTSD.
Nathan believes this could go a long way in saving the lives of his colleagues. “Building a statewide structure, breaking down all the stigma, letting people know that these resources are here, is just going to have tons of benefits as we show, as a state, that we want to support EMS.”