EMS first responders endure stressful mental demands on the job

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LUZERNE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Not all job stress is created equal. Some jobs are more demanding than others.

That’s the case of emergency responders who’ve been dealing with more than their share of stress during this pandemic.

Substance abuse and mental health services administration report roughly one in three emergency responders deal with PTSD, depression or anxiety.

A first responder’s mental health is something experts say should not be ignored.

The call could come at any time day or night for first responders who work at places like Trans-Med Ambulance. They are entrusted to provide whatever emergency service is required in their job description.

“There are times when we have bad calls that it does bother a person especially if it’s a child or an infant and there’s a death involved,” explained David Prohaska, Director of Community Relations of Trans-Med Ambulance

It’s the result of what Prohaska describes as showing up on a person’s worst day.

“It does take a toll and the pandemic has really put a beating on some people,” stated Prohaska.

Prohaska says that mental strain has only gotten worse in recent weeks with long waits in ambulance bays to get patients into overpopulated hospitals.

Sometimes the wait is an hour or longer because hospitals filled in part with COVID patients.

“It’s getting to a point where we’re stuck in the back of an ambulance with a patient that sometimes could be critical and there’s more stress on us,” said Prohaska.

The stress is shared among a brotherhood and sisterhood near and far.

“A lot of folks can leave their job at the office. This stuff comes home with you,” stated Denis Lenehan, firefighter/EMT of Millis Fire Department.

Boston area the first responder describes the toll of traumatic events as cumulative.

“Over time, you know, little triggers can bring back those memories and a whole lot of emotions,” said Lenehan.

Lenehan serves as a consultant for AT&T FirstNet which provides, among other things, resources for first responder health and wellness. It could be as simple as a therapy dog visit or as complex as crisis counseling.

FirstNet officials say their work is also preventative to provide dedicated workers with the tools they need for a healthy career.

“So we train people to address their mental health the same way that they train their bodies to be physically fit to answer their community’s call. So it’s really, we’re working with the culture of addressing health and wellness,” explained Dr. Anna Fitch Courie — Director of Responder Wellness of AT&T FirstNet.

Meantime, Prohaska says trans-med veterans look out for their junior counterparts for signs of mental health issues.

They’ll have heart-to-heart talks with each other and, if deemed necessary, set up grief or crisis counseling.

To learn more about the FristNet for the first responders, head to their website.

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