Mental Health Care On and Off the Job

Source: EMR-ISAC InfoGram

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and serves to focus on the one in five Americans who live every day with mental illness, often in near silence because of the stigma our society still attaches to it. Despite this, more and more people are making their struggles public in order to break down these walls and create a safer environment for themselves and others to live.

First responders regularly see situations involving people with mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) published a new guide to help first responders manage these cases safely and without violence. “Dealing with a Mental Health Crisis” includes a quick assessment, how to determine if someone is a danger to themselves or others, suicide warning signs, and a list of common medications and why they are prescribed.

But while we are taking care of others, we need to be sure we are taking care of our own. The percentage of first responders with chronic mental health issues is higher than the national average due to stressors related to work duties. Fortunately, there is a lot more help available now than there once was, including amazing support networks and resources specific to first responders.

In addition to the resources on the Mental Health Awareness Month’s web site and NAMI, the National Volunteer Fire Council’s Share the Load Program focuses on fire and EMS personnel, including the video “Warning Signs to Know” and the Fire/EMS Helpline at 1-888-731-FIRE (3473). The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance also offers extensive support and resources.

Do not hesitate to contact the Fire/EMS Helpline (1-888-731-3473) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273- 8255) if you are in crisis. Your work organization may also have an active employee assistance program you could contact. In addition, the web site The Mighty provides a supportive, safe community for those living with mental illness, disability, and chronic disease.

Bottom line – remember that you would seek treatment for a physical ailment if it was affecting your life; seeking treatment for a mental illness that affects your life is no different.