Have you ever witnessed a serious collision while driving? Chances are, if you have, it’s a memory that has stuck with you.
Now, imagine seeing something like that multiple times a day… every day. This is the reality for many first responders.
Unfortunately, many first responders who witness these gruesome scenes while on the job don’t have access to any form of mental health treatment at no cost.
However, Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres has announced the launch of its new Local Hero Support Program, which will provide up to 50 residential concurrent disorder treatment spaces each year to first responders across the province.
This program is also intended to raise awareness of the growing prevalence of addiction and mental illness among first responders.
Many of these issues derive from exposure to traumatic events, which, if left untreated, can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to recent studies, nearly half of all first responders have symptoms consistent with a mental illness—four times higher than the general public.
“First responders are there when we need them, facing situations that are unimaginable to most of us. These heroes put their lives and emotional wellbeing on the line for our collective benefit, and far too many are suffering without support.” Shane Saltzman, CEO of Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres, said in a news release.
“We are committed to assisting those in the first responder community, and we hope the Local Hero Support Program increases the dialogue on this important and urgent issue,” he continued.
While there are supports in place to help people, including first responders, struggling with addiction and mental illness, it can often be difficult for first responders to receive these supports.
Many of them struggling with PTSD are unable to prove they are doing so, and are therefore unable to secure funding for treatment.
Additionally, those who do qualify for funding may have to wait for as long as a year to actually receive treatment.
“After years of cumulative exposures and stress, it is no surprise that some first responders can suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse,” Wendy Sims, staff sergeant of the Organizational Wellness Unit for the Peel Regional Police, said in the same news release.
“First responders who suffer from these health conditions need intensive and extensive treatment to keep them mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy, so a program like Trafalgar’s is life-changing. It breaks barriers and is a tremendous first step in what needs to be a long-term, community-wide strategy to help those who are being underserved,” she said.