Research has shown that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is prevalent among police officers and fire fighters.
Mankato Department of Public Safety – Fire Deputy Director Jeff Bengtson said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released such a study in 2016 which, “Showed that suicide rates for police and firefighters are over two times the national average. So, there’s some baseline study information that we tend to be affected by posttraumatic stress at a rate greater than the general population.”
But Bengtson said that’s not the only hazard connected to the job and, “Other studies have shown that substance abuse and binge drinking also affect first responders at a higher rate than the general population.”
A new initiative that started last year is intended to address that. “It’s called MnFIRE. It’s a group of firefighters that are trying to provide resources, counseling resources, referral service to make them easier to access to get help if they need it.”
After any member of the Mankato Department of Public Safety responds to an incident likely to raise the stress level, Deputy Director Amy Vokal says they offer critical incident debriefings to those that may have been impacted.
She said, “The debriefings have helped people kind of put things in order and understand what to expect, what are normal stress responses, but also resources that are there to help people. Our city organization has an employee assistance program which offers a lot of services. It is completely anonymous.”
But incidents of use of force, deaths, and injuries aren’t the only culprit and Vokal explained, “Stress is often cumulative; so it can be a little thing, a little thing, a little thing, a little thing.”
She added that when anti-police sentiment has been high, officers have also experienced higher levels of stress.