Every day first responders experience emotional ups and downs caused by various types of events. Sleep deprivation from running calls all night, losing a patient after you've tried everything, or just the constant death and destruction seen on a regular basis, these are just a few of the things that affect mental health. The emotional reactions from these events can become long lasting. They are medical conditions that cause changes in how we think and feel and in our mood. They are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing.
With proper treatment, people can realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life, work productively and meaningfully contribute to the world. Without mental health we cannot be fully healthy.
As a global community, we are beginning to recognize that there must be a greater sense of urgency among the community of first responders. Our first responders are in critical need of mental healthcare. The stigmatization will remain, not only for those who serve as first responders, but the community at large, until we make mental healthcare and mental illness a safe and acceptable topic.
Yet, understanding mental health isn't only about being able to identify symptoms and having a name for these conditions. There is a complicated system involving local communities, the federal government, research institutions, private companies and other pieces that are all trying to fit together.
Each piece contributes to our understanding of mental health—if one is missing, the picture isn't complete.