In these unprecedented times of COVID-19 and civil unrest, our first responders — fire fighters, paramedics, law enforcement, military and medical personnel — are under more pressure than ever. The level of intensity, combined with long shifts, extreme situations, and exposure to traumatic situations can leave them looking for ways of coping with these stressors. In turn, these everyday heroes are more vulnerable to substance use and mental health disorders than ever.
Compounding these elevated pressures can sometimes be the unhealthy belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness, along with cultural components of being expected to put on a tough exterior, stoicism, gallows humor and peer shaming. This can cause individuals to bury their anxiety or keep it in. An unhealthy choice. The result of which can be depression, pushing others away, self-isolation, panic attacks, substance abuse, even suicidal thoughts or actions.
Now more than ever, organizational interventions can be a lifeline to these frontline heroes. Clear communication, mental health and resistance training, making first responders aware of the dangers and having them monitor their own stress so they know when it’s time to ask for help, are all steps that organizations can take to help ensure that we are there for them, the way they are there for all of us. Clinical interventions such as resilience training, counseling, peer support and programs can be lifesaving.
There are also specialized programs that offer treatment and guidance for uniformed service personnel. The Rosecrance Florian Program is one of these. The program is directed by a retired Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief with over 30 years’ experience in the field of addiction and mental health. It was developed in partnership with Dr. Raymond Garcia, a board-certified psychiatrist and addictionologist who is trained and experienced in treating uniformed service personnel for co-occurring disorders.
The Rosecrance Florian Program also features peer support groups, which show these men and women they are not alone in managing and addressing addiction and mental health. These hour-long discussions are presented in a simple format in which attendees are able to share with each other their recovery stories. This unique support experience helps to foster hope and encourage connection.
The program offers an intensive treatment experience giving clients more time, therapy and experiential learning to accelerate their progress. No other program offers this depth of experience and the best opportunity for lasting recovery.