ATLANTA — Seeing death almost everyday takes a toll on even the toughest of people. Because of that, police, military, fire fighters, and first responders have the highest statistics for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide in the nation.
This troubling fact has many in the industry trying to come up with ways to help curb this.
During The Reveal investigation into private Facebook EMS and fire groups using "dark and twisted" humor, those contributing to the page told us that it's their way of dealing with the daily trauma they see on the job.
We went to a board-certified police and public safety psychologist to get her advice on the subject matter.
"I would suggest that they find an outlet to more appropriately deal with the feelings that they’re having and the difficulties that they’re experiencing, through that cumulative stress, through that trauma. Rather than sharing more trauma and exposing more people to more trauma. Finding a more appropriate resource for that," said Psychologist Heather McElroy.
Because of that, we have compiled a list of state recommended resources to help people dealing with these very real impacts of the job.
The list below was provided by the health department specifically for those in law enforcement and emergency services.
Safe Call Now 1-206-459-3020 - A 24/7 help line staffed by first responders for first responders and their family members. They can assist with treatment options for responders who are suffering from mental health, substance abuse and other personal issues.
Fire/EMS Helpline 1-888-731-3473 - Also known as Share The Load. This is a program ran by the National Volunteer Fire Council. They have a help line, text-based help service, and have also collected a list of many good resources for people looking for help and support.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 - The national (USA) suicide hotline. It's not first responder specific, but they can and will talk to anyone who needs help. We’ve been told by one of their founders they have a large number of first responders and veterans who volunteer.
Suicide.org list of local helplines for all 50 states - This list includes thousands of local call numbers for every state in the United States. Calling a local number can help put you in contact with nearby resources like counselors or psychiatrists faster than calling a national line.
Crisis Text Line - A service that allows people in crisis to speak with a trained crisis counselor by texting “Start” or “Help” to 741-741.
Copline (Law Enforcement Only) 1-800-267-5463 - A confidential helpline for members of US law enforcement. Their website also has additional information on help and resources.
Frontline Helpline 1-866-676-7500 - This is run by Frontline Responder Services. It offers 24/7 coverage with first responder call-takers.
Veterans Crisis Line (Veterans only) 1-800-273-8255 & press 1, or text 838255 - A crisis line specifically for veterans of the US armed forces.
Georgia Crisis & Access Line 1-800-715-4225 - A searchable database that can help match those in need to professionals near them.
National Alliance for Mental Illness - There is national support and treatment for anyone dealing with PTSD.
The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians also provides a detailed list of different training, research, and treatment programs.
Georgia Takes Strides
The state of Georgia has even allocated $1.5 million to open a peer support office for first responders.
That money will go towards staff salaries, training, seminars, equipment, and travel, according to the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS).
The program will have ten employees including peer counselors, licensed clinicians, and administrative positions.
Some of those peer counselors have already been hired and have credentials like David James, a former Richmond County Deputy. According to DPS, James has 33 years of experience and has been shot five times in the line of duty.
The process of hiring for these positions include a background check and a polygraph.
The Reveal is an investigative show exposing inequality, injustice, and ineptitude created by people in power throughout Georgia and across the country. It airs Sunday nights at 6 on 11Alive.