They are America’s heroes, the brave men and women who rush headlong into danger in service of the greater good. They are intent on saving lives, even when their own are at stake. And they are witness to tragedy on a regular basis – it’s just a hazard of the job.

Beyond the physical dangers of fire, law enforcement and other public safety jobs, there are very real risks to first responders’ mental health. They are repeatedly exposed to painful and traumatic experiences, yet rarely have time to recover and process their experiences. They’re also subject to long and physically strenuous working hours, erratic sleep schedules and chronic stress, putting them at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse, depression, burnout and a host of other issues.

The Incidence of Mental Health Issues

Indeed, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that public safety workers have a 50% higher risk of developing a mental health condition than the general population. Burnout and its associated behavioral health issues can ruin careers, destroy families and threaten public and first responder safety.

For example, depression, substance abuse and PTSD have become epidemic in law enforcement – but that’s just the beginning. Burned-out officers have a significantly higher suicide risk, with those reporting burnout showing a 117% greater likelihood of suicidal ideation.

Among firefighters, a Florida State University study showed that 46.8% had experienced suicidal thoughts, while 19.2% had made suicide plans and 15.5% had attempted to take their own lives. Another national survey indicated that 27% of firefighters struggle with substance abuse and a full 65% show symptoms of PTSD.

The Stigma of Seeking Care

Even more troubling, more than 80% of those surveyed reported that reaching out for help would make them seem weak or “unfit for duty.” Compounding the issue, many public safety agencies departments don’t have the necessary services in place to assist employees in crisis.

In short, though a huge percentage of first responders are suffering from an array of mental health concerns, most do not receive care.

The Role of Telebehavioral Health

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, behavioral healthcare is a proven method for helping people deal with burnout and other mental health issues.

According to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, thousands of clinical studies have shown that therapy is highly effective for mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment and relapse prevention. The analysis showed a full 80% of employees who received treatment reported improved workplace productivity and satisfaction.

Drilling down deeper, the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness reports that teletherapy is effective in treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, sleeplessness and other burnout-related mental health issues. A large body of research shows that telebehavioral health achieves outcomes that are just as good as in-person care.

And, unlike traditional therapy, teletherapy services are easy to access, are not limited by geography or local provider networks, and mitigate the stigma of seeking care. Therapy – delivered via phone or video – is appropriate for treating burnout as well as a host of other common mental and emotional issues including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, trauma, marital and family problems, eating disorders, grief, and numerous other personal and professional stressors. It’s a real and actionable option for first responders in need of mental health services.

MeMD’s Telebehavioral Health Solution

MeMD’s patient-centric, user-friendly telebehavioral health platform makes it easy for people to get the care they need – at their convenience and from the privacy of their homes.

Members log on from their computer or mobile device to schedule their therapy session. In as few as 48 hours, they’re connected with a state-licensed, NCQA-credentialed mental health therapist. This is an important advantage, especially for someone whose stress has reached a crisis level and who can’t afford to wait.

From there, the provider will design a care plan that includes short-term counseling, long-term therapy, or something in between. It’s a simple, cost-effective and highly valuable option for providing critically important benefits to people who need it most.

Learn more about MeMD’s telebehavioral solutions.


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