Employers must understand emotional distress faced by first responders
First responders are prepared, equipped and trained to handle emergency situations. However, according to one expert, this responsibility often leads to emotional distress.
Miggie Greenberg, assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, said individuals react to traumatic situations differently. The challenge with first responders, she noted, is that they are trained to deal with high-intensity situations without reacting emotionally. Therefore, the aftermath can be that much more devastating. Additionally, those who have experienced a trauma are more likely to react adversely to a traumatic event.
Normal reactions include being in shock, feeling sad, acting more emotional, having intrusive thoughts about the incident, and behaving in a hypervigilant manner. Greenberg said these should fade over time. However, when one's day-to-day routine is frequently sidetracked by such reactions, this may be evidence of major distress.
Greenberg said it generally takes some time to recover from the emotional wounds after a traumatic event. In the meantime, several points can help offset the effects. She recommended employers encourage first responders to:
- Take a break from situations where they have no control. In other words, allow first responders to stay home from work immediately after a traumatic event.
- Foster connections with family, friends and colleagues.
- Exercise regularly to relieve stress.
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February 8, 2010
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