First Responder Open Letter

To the first responders of  Florida and the World, thank you. Thank you for the tireless and selfless efforts you put forth to protect and serve the community. Thank you for the sacrifices you make working long hours and missing time with family in that service. Thank you all for your bravery, running towards danger to ensure the safety of everyone else. Thank you for being the hero’s that you are, especially during times of such uncertainty. Thank you for giving hope.

Thank you to the family of first responders of Brevard County, Florida and the sacrifices you make as your loved ones serve the community. The worry and stress you carry when your loved one leaves to go to work in something no one else could ever understand. Thank you for your own bravery and protecting your own front lines as your loved ones protect the front lines of our community.

The sacrifices and dedication of all first responders in just cause is to be applauded. Most of the world will never see the scars under your uniforms or the scars in your hearts. The constant stresses and worries that you cover so that you can perform your duties. They will hopefully never know the sleepless nights of your spouses, children, and parents hoping that you are safe. No one will ever know unless they themselves have lived through it.

First responders and their families often fight lonely and quiet battles. Many times, you may feel alone or as though you have no idea where to turn. The pressures that surround you may put a strain on relationships, family life, or even your personal life. But you do not have to walk that road alone. There is hope and it is possible to get through the toughest of times.

So, for all that you do, thank you!

Who is a First Responder?

When people think “first responder,” most people think of police officers and fire fighters. However, the term first responder is a wide umbrella term. The first responders of Brevard County, Florida are your police and firefighters, but also EMS, security services, nurses, doctors, and military.

A first responder is anyone who is the first to arrive during an emergency. During a crime or acts of violence, it will be the police. During fires and natural disasters, it will likely be the fire department. During accidents or medical emergencies out in the community, it will be EMS. During a global pandemic, it is the nurses and doctors.

A first responder is a man or woman who loves their community. Out of that love they dedicate time, blood, sweat, and even tears to protect and care for the members of the community. First responders are not always full-time officers or firefighters. For instance, civilians in the community may be volunteer police officers or firefighters.

Impacts of Being a First Responder

As discussed above, being a first responder is not an easy life to live. There are many impacts of being a first responder. First responders witness the worst humanity has to offer, they also witness the worst accidents and effects of nature. They see the darkest and worst of everything when they respond to an emergency.

With all of these traumatic experiences they must return home at the end of their shift. When they arrive home, they have to be a present parent, spouse, child, neighbor, and whatever other roles they fill in their lives. Imagine being on scene to a fatal car accident, arresting a parent for abuse and neglect, helping console a family who lost everything in a house fire, giving peace to someone in the process of dying. All within a single day’s work. Then they must return home and pretend that they are fine.

Of course, their family knows that not everything is fine. Perhaps they grow distant at times or their loved one starts falling into depression. The spouse may have to calm their significant other when they wake up from a nightmare, a result of their untreated PTSD. And often times, these men, women, and their families are so busy helping everyone else, they don’t know that they might need support as well.

Common Issues First Responders Experience

First responders are at an all-time high risk of burnout. Hospitals are severely understaffed while the number of patients only increases. Nurses are forced to work several twelve-hours shifts in a row while caring for additional patients. Police stations are undermanned and officers face a barrage of criticism. This can be said for all first responder positions—understaffed and over-worked.

First responders are also at a heightened risk of depression and anxiety. They may be victimized by a person they are caring for as well as exposure. Whether a nurse, EMS, police, or firefighter, there is a chance an angry or confused patient/individual could turn on them. This, in part, contributes to the fact first responders are more likely to commit suicide than those in other professions.

First responders are also at a discerningly higher rate of suffering PTSD than other professions. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is something anyone who witnesses a traumatic event can be a victim of. Naturally, first responders are most likely to suffer this because trauma is part of their day-to-day work. PTSD can be direct or indirect, meaning the individual could have witnessed or lived through an event, or from hearing devastating news.

PTSD does require a diagnosis, but is often experienced with intense and disturbing thoughts related to the experience even long after it has occurred. The individual may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares, experience intense sadness, fear, or anger. They may avoid similar situation (someone who has PTSD from a car accident may refuse to drive), or they may react to loud noises or sudden touch and movement. Another common reaction from someone with PTSD is withdrawal from those around them.

This withdrawal can lead to strain on relationships. Some studies put the divorce rate of first responders upwards of 75% compared to the national average of 50%. This impacts not just the couple, but any children that may be involved as well. Even without divorce, if the first responder is suffering depression, anxiety, or PTSD they may be unintentionally detaching from their children. This is where the benefits of therapy for first responders comes into play.

Counseling for First Responders in Brevard County, Florida

Whether it is individual, couples, or family counseling, counseling for first responders is critical to treating trauma and preventing burnout. With counseling you have a judgement-free, accepting, and healing relationship with your therapist to work through the effects of your work. Individually you may utilize EMDR or trauma therapy to work through PTSD, depression, anxiety, or stress.

However, family members of first responders also may want individual counseling. As a family member of a first responder, you deal with, perhaps your own depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Individual counseling for family members of first responders can help you process your own traumas and dysfunctions related to the career of your loved one. Your mental health and peace is also important! Much like with your first responder loved one, you may find benefit from EMDR counseling, trauma therapy, or traditional talk therapy.

In couples counseling these same issues can be worked on, but in the context of the relationship. Couples counseling in Brevard County can help build a stronger connection between you and your significant other, open streams of communication, as well as give both partners a place to openly discuss their fears and concerns. It is a good step in protecting the relationship through the strains the job can create.

Family therapy for first responders in Brevard County, Florida is also a worthwhile option. The entire family can come together and work on the issues as mentioned above, but also help build connection between children and caregivers. Family therapy allows the entire family system a safe place to express themselves and to enlighten the caregivers to what their children are experiencing and what emotions they may need help processing. Family therapy can help establish an effective and strong family dynamic.

Take Care of You

It would be impossible to thank the first responders in Brevard County enough. You care for the community day in and day out, you show unwavering courage and strength to do your job as does your family through their support. It is important to care for yourself, too. To ensure you have a safe and supportive place to work through the things that threaten first responders most. True You Always Counseling is ready to assist you, your significant other, and your family. Contact True You Always today and ask about first responder counseling.