While the 8 o’clock chorus of applause that spread throughout my neighborhood in March, April, and into June has subsided, essential workers continue to serve their communities and patients in profound ways. Risk of exposure, staffing shortages, infecting others, PPE supply, and more can weigh heavily on individuals who work on the frontlines, particularly EMS providers.
The 2020 EMS Trends Report highlights that 68% of EMS personnel cite mental health as having a significant/major impact on the profession. Unlike other medical conditions, the stigma can create harmful barriers to accessing mental health care and treatment. It is critical we address the prevalence of psychosocial stressors and mental health challenges in EMS to dismantle stigma and cultivate mental wellbeing.
With immense gratitude for our friends and everyone working in EMS, we have assembled a list of information and resources where EMS providers can find support.
- Code Green Campaign is a first responder oriented mental health advocacy and education organization. They have compiled a list of mental health resources including crisis hotlines, texting resources, treatment options, blogs/podcasts, books, and more with a particular focus on frontline workers. Code Green Campaign also offers education, classes, and a platform for emergency services providers to share stories.
- Safe Call Now is a 24/7 help line staffed by first responders and their family members to assist providers with treatment options who are suffering mental health, substance abuse, or personal challenges. The help line can be reached at 206-459-3020.
- Learn about resilience. Resilience does not mean that EMS providers are invincible. They are human, just like the patients they serve, and are susceptible to the inevitable twists and turns that life brings. Resilience embraces the reality of challenges while developing the tools and mindset to weather those challenges. Paramedic and mental health advocate, Nat Harris, shares her thoughts on cultivating resilience and offers insights as a PTSD, addiction, and suicide survivor on her podcast “Brainstorm” available on multiple podcast streaming platforms.
- Professional guidance from therapists or psychologists is not just for folks in crisis but helps EMS providers cultivate good mental health. When looking for a mental health provider, it is essential to find someone who you connect with. Ways to find a therapist or psychologist include searching in the American Psychology Association directory and finding someone who’s bio/website you connect with. You can also schedule free initial phone consultations to ask questions, evaluate if the provider is a good fit, and see if they have worked with people in your situation. If you are comfortable asking friends or colleagues, you can also ask for referrals. See if your EMS service offers an employee assistance program (EAP) that includes mental health counselling. EAP treatment is often short-term and finding treatment through your insurance plan via the APA directory is worthwhile. Providers who request payment out-of-pocket frequently will offer a sliding scale based on your financial situation. Remember that mental health counseling and treatment is protected by HIPPA.
- Support networks – whether among coworkers, family, friends, national organizations, or online communities – are a valuable resource when it comes to finding navigating trauma and mental health challenges. It can be easy to retreat in moments of hardship, but reaching out to and strengthening your network can provide key assistance during difficult times.