First Responders and PTSD

Municipality Matters


by Mayor David Gordon

One of the increasing problems facing first responders in all municipalities around the world is PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event, either experiencing it, or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes may not appear until years afterwards. These symptoms cause significant problems in social (family or life in general) or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks.

PTSD symptoms are grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.

Who are our first responders? Responders are EMS workers (ambulance), police, firefighters, and military personnel. First responders deal with traumatic and mind numbing events daily, and, more times than not, a number of traumatic events daily. First responders are your neighbours, your husband or wife, just normal people. First responders are not super-people, and eventually their brain will not be able to face any more blood, human suffering, or death, and they will develop PTSD.

In the past, first responders, management, or the public did not know what PTSD was, and responders self-medicated by drinking alcohol or taking drugs to forget. They lost their families and jobs and respect in the community. First responders had a high rate of suicide as the only way they could find peace. Today, thankfully, we recognize PTSD and there is treatment for PTSD symptoms. When the symptoms are recognized, first responders are given a mental health professional course of therapy. Can there be a cure for PTSD for first responders, or just a way for them to cope with life? Who knows? When you wake up at night with a cold sweat, having a nightmare about one of the horrors that you lived, is that a cure?

I hope this gives the public a new respect for your first responders, because, one day, they may save your life.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here