By O2X Resilience Specialist Jennifer Pugh, LICSW
Experiencing stress to some degree is a known effect of any occupation. Shift work, workplace culture, employer bureaucracy, and management of home life stressors while at work are just some of the many factors that can contribute to the experience of acute or chronic stress over the course of one’s career. Unlike most occupations, however, first responders are also expected to respond to recurrent, emergent incidents in their communities that are often traumatic in nature.
In fire service, the cumulative effect of these stressors can often result in the development of mental health conditions, such as major depressive disorder (MDD) or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Experiencing either of these conditions can increase the already heightened risk of injury and other physical health concerns associated with fire service employment. Knowing that mental health stigma and limited access to applicable resources often prevent individuals from seeking help, it is imperative that all members of the fire service use and promote the use of basic stress management skills. Consistently incorporating any one of the following skills has been found to significantly mitigate the effects of stress over time.