First responder mental healthcare: Evidence-based prevention, postvention, and treatment [2018]

Recent national tragedies of hurricanes, mass shootings, gun violence in schools, wild fires, and mudslides have drawn our attention to the trauma of affected individuals and schoolchildren, but less to the stressors of first responders. While commonly regaled as “heroes,” responders face a scarcity of systemic and tailored mental health support. First responders are susceptible to witnessing a wide array of traumatic events, often in their own communities, that contribute to their stress (Benedek, Fullerton, & Ursano, 2007; Castellano & Plionis, 2006; Kleim & Westphal, 2011). This article critiques systemic resources for first responders’ mental healthcare; addresses their personal-social characteristics as well as workplace cultural stigma about help-seeking attitudes; and includes a needs assessment of first responders’ resilience that was conducted by one of the authors (Roysircar, 2008a). Using this evidence-based practice knowledge about first responders, the authors present three hypothetical vignettes that highlight the different challenges that commonly effect first responders and recommend interventions. The authors advocate for access to specialized resources that enhance first responders’ preparedness for a potentially traumatic event (i.e., prevention education); increase their coping skills and social connections after an event (i.e., postvention service); and provide ongoing mental healthcare (i.e., treatment) that is culturally tailored to first responders’ unique needs arising from their work context and identity.

Lanza, A., Roysircar, G., & Rodgers, S.
Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 49(3), 2018