Here’s why first responders delay addressing substance abuse and mental health struggles

Here’s why first responders delay addressing substance abuse and mental health struggles

Ever heard of disassociation? Well, it’s one of the biggest reasons why first responders delay asking for help. 

The life of a first responder is go, go, go – constantly on the move, balancing families, 80 to 100 hour work weeks, errands, personal projects, and more. It’s rough.

But one thing that first responders are good at is filling up their schedules to avoid addressing their problems, whether it be substance abuse, mental health, or both. 

Have you ever had to fold a load of laundry but threw it on the couch in a giant ball and decided to take a nap instead? This is a simple analogy on how we often sidetrack ourselves from doing what we really should be doing. 

When it comes to our first responders, many will work upwards of 100 hours a week, tend to their families, then fill up all free time with other projects and tasks – like building a shed, modifying a car, painting, etc. You’ll notice that people in this situation are always unnecessarily busy, week after week, even when they don’t have to be. 

This is a tactic that we as people are not often aware of. It’s essentially using yourself to be busy and of service 24/7 just so that we don’t have to sit there, alone in our thoughts. 

“Disassociation is keeping the issues you don’t want to think about away from the mind by staying busy; because if the mind gets quiet, things start to surface. Staying busy rather than addressing the problem can lead to unhealthy choices in the way we disassociate.”

First Responder Wellness Founder & Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Stephen Odom

In the short-term, disassociating ourselves from people and our problems can seem like the best option at hand – but in the long-term, we’re only harming ourselves by masking our struggles for years on end. 

Remember, we’re only people. You’re human. And just because you’re a first responder doesn’t mean you have to be of service to the world 24/7.

If you made it to the end of this blog, ask yourself, “Am I dissociating? If so, what issue is it that I’m trying to avoid?”

Are you looking for balance? Here’s how first responders can find it during the holidays

Are you looking for balance? Here’s how first responders can find it during the holidays

As soon as the Thanksgiving holiday rolls around, it’s go, go, go throughout the season and that can become overwhelming very quickly. 

For a first responder, like yourself, you’re constantly on the go during your work-life; and it’s incredibly easy to lose balance amidst the slew of holidays that occupy our time and mental capacity. 

As a public safety professional, working through the holidays while maintaining a family life, personal health, and social life may feel like juggling more than you can handle. As a result, you may start to feel a loss of balance. 

On top of the heightened anxiety in the air as the holiday season approaches, first responders also deal with increased work schedule conflicts, and many can’t get time off to spend with family and friends. Trying to balance these commitments can lead to an elevation in mental strain among first responders. 

It can be helpful to determine your priorities, schedule them to the best of your ability, maintain healthy habits, and communicate emotions you find difficult to handle. 

If you find yourself losing balance, these four tips can help: 

Simply say no

First things first, it’s okay to say, “NO.”

To avoid spreading yourself too thin during the holidays, realize it’s okay to say “no” to specific events or errands that are conflicting with your priorities. 

Agreeing to attend every event or occasion can even put a strain on your mental health and well-being, especially if they conflict with other priorities.

Many people will understand that you have limited free time because of your schedule, which is the holidays. Politely saying “no” to an event stressing you out can make more room for you to say “yes” to your priorities. 

And remember, if you said already agreed to something, you’re not beholden to that commitment; you can change your mind.

Determine YOUR priorities

You may already have a strong understanding of your priorities, as this is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a first responder in recovery and after. 

However, new obligations will arise during the holidays, and your priorities may shift. 

To help you manage this, we recommend writing down a quick list of things you’re thankful for. 

Taking time to look closely at what matters to you can help you get your priorities straight. It can also help you find peace in letting go of certain things that aren’t essential once you determine what’s necessary; letting go of what is not required will give you more time to focus on your priorities, thus giving you more life balance. 

Plan ahead, be reasonable 

Let’s not underestimate the power of planning. Planning is critical in maintaining balance, as it allows you to determine beforehand if your commitments and priorities align, and if it begins to stress you out because they don’t align, remember you can say “no.”

Take the time to plan with reasonable expectations by looking at the schedules of your family and friends. Sometimes this means celebrating a day before or after the actual holiday or having multiple celebrations. The more you can figure out ahead of time, the less stress you may feel as the holidays get closer.

Acknowledge your emotions

It can feel overwhelming to process your emotions when you have so much going on.

But, avoiding your emotions or withholding them could end up leading to worse problems down the line and disrupt your balance. 

Remember, It’s normal for many emotions to arise during the holidays, especially for a first responder in treatment or recovery. 

Allowing yourself to be open to the people you trust can help alleviate the stress and turmoil that you may feel. Once you’re able to get a handle on emotions that are weighing you down, you can begin to make room for positive feelings instead of putting on a facade of happiness in front of loved ones. 

About First Responder Wellness

At First Responder Wellness, we guide those ready to take the path to recovery and well-being. We offer various programs within a community of others who know what it is like to be in the front lines. For more information on how we can assist you, call 888-443-4898. 

Police officers can help prevent trauma from becoming PTSI with these tips

Police officers can help prevent trauma from becoming PTSI with these tips

Did you know 30 percent of first responders develop mental health conditions, such as Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), which is 10 percent higher than the general population?

More specifically, in May of 2018, the Department of Justice reported that an estimated 15 percent of police officers were suffering from PTSI. 

Responding to critical incidents and disasters, especially during a time of civil unrest and amidst a pandemic, is placing our police officers at the forefront of depression, PTSI, substance abuse, and suicide ideation more than ever before. 

“In a study, about three-fourths of surveyed officers reported having experienced a traumatic event, but less than half of them told their agency about it. Additionally, about half of the officers reported personally knowing one or more law enforcement officers who changed after experiencing a traumatic event, and about half reported knowing an officer in their agency or another agency who had committed suicide.”

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Still, in 2021 first responders face the stigma of reporting traumatic incidents and seeking assistance for mental health conditions. 

In the field of public safety, it’s not “if” you come across a traumatic critical incident but a matter of “when.” 

Here are a handful of tips that may help to prevent trauma from becoming PTSI. 

Preventing trauma from becoming PTSI

As we mentioned above, a person who takes on a lifelong career as a police officer will likely endure some level of trauma when responding to a critical incident during their time of service. 

While we cannot necessarily prevent trauma from occurring, we can work together to prevent trauma from becoming PTSI; now and in the future. 

Here are six proactive tactics that can help ease the trauma and prevent it from becoming PTSI:

  • Disclose the trauma to a loved one or colleague
  • Don’t isolate yourself; continue contact with family and friends
  • Practice grounding yourself via meditation
  • Always aim to identify as a survivor, not a victim 
  • Find ways to help others in their healing process, like colleagues 
  • Practice mantras, such as “I will get better” and “I am powerful.” 

It’s important that starting now, we allow ourselves to step into uncomfortable territory and normalize the expression of our mental wellness to those around us. 

Remember, as a first responder, you have an entire community of people who love and support you through your entire journey towards wellness. We believe in you and hope these tips come in handy for you or a friend. 

About First Responder Wellness

At First Responder Wellness, we guide those ready to take the path to recovery and wellbeing. We offer various programs within a community of others who know what it is like to be in the front lines. For more information on how we can assist you, call 888-443-4898. 

Caring for plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress

Caring for plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress


Did you know that caring for houseplants has the power to reduce physiological and psychological stress?

This may be good news for all plant enthusiasts out there or encouragement to a first responder looking to beautify their home or garden while enhancing mental and emotional health. 

“Researchers conducted a study on “how the interaction with indoor plants may reduce stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in adults. The research-study results concluded that active interaction with indoor plants can reduce both physiological and psychological stress; this is accomplished through suppression of sympathetic nervous system activity, diastolic blood pressure, and promotion of comfortable, natural feelings.”

Affinity Health

When a plant owner tends to their houseplant(s), all of their attention is focused on the plant and only the plant. 

Caring for a living being is second nature for first responders, so taking the time to water, trim, and rotate plants can be a very therapeutic process that relaxes your senses while your sole focus is on the plant. 

While there are so many science-backed benefits of houseplants, the amount of mental wellness opportunity they provide to the lives of humans is unparalleled. 

Here are the top five benefits plants have on mental health:

  • Plants can reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and anxiousness
  • Houseplants can elevate productivity and boost creativity
  • Improve the quality of indoor air
  • Sharpen concentration and memory 

As many of you already understand, oftentimes, a reduced level of serotonin is linked to depression, which is why surrounding yourself with a few indoor plants is a solid test to undertake as plants can help trigger the same chemical response in our brain which releases serotonin. 

“A 2007 study found a bacterium in plant soil called Mycobacterium vaccae that triggers the release of serotonin, which lifts mood and reduces anxiety. Therefore, interaction with indoor or outdoor plants can alleviate symptoms of depression.”

Affinity Health

Plants provide a sense of calming energy, which can translate to a stronger sense of wellbeing. With all the data and evidence supporting houseplant’s impact on mental health, we recommend you try this tactic and see if it works for you. 

At First Responder Wellness, we guide those ready to take the path to recovery and wellbeing. We offer various programs within a community of others who know what it is like to be in the front lines. For more information on how we can assist you, call 888-443-4898. 

Discover the mental health benefits of reading

Discover the mental health benefits of reading

Sitting down with a good book is a pastime that far too often tends to fade away when our lives get busy and take a more complex route. 

There are so many great benefits reading has on mental health, including reduced stress, assisting with relaxation, builds up the brain, strengthens the ability to empathize, reduces symptoms of dementia, and so much more. 

Many people do not read because they simply do not have the time, and that is understandable. But, what if I told you this – you do not need to read for a long period of time or hours on end to gather the benefits that reading has on the mind. 

Even giving yourself three to 10 minutes per day to read, where you can let go of the focus on your life and step into a world where your mind is solely focused on the words printed across the paper of the book you’re reading, can help you find relief and peace during that short period of time; it is worth it. 

“Studies have shown that reading as little as 6 minutes per day can improve your quality of sleep, reduce stress, and sharpen mental acuity. Reading strengthens the neural circuits and pathways of our brain while lowering heart rate and blood pressure.”

Step Up for Mental Health

If you’re a person who doesn’t have a ton of time for reading, we highly recommend reading brief meditation books, where you can read a one-page passage per day, which may take anywhere between one and five minutes to complete. 

We believe reading can positively impact your life, so here is a meditation book we recommend just for you. 

The Daily Stoic

The Daily Stoic is a #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller written by Ryan Holiday to help us become more resilient, happier, virtuous, and wise. 

Now you may be thinking, what is stoicism? In short, stoicism is a branch of philosophy founded by Zeno in 3rd Century BC, which teaches the development of self-control and provides wisdom on becoming a clear and unbiased thinker. 

Inside The Daily Stoic, you’ll receive 366 meditations on wisdom, perseverance, and the art of living. All scriptures are between a half-page or one full page and have the power to give you a new perspective on life, encouraging you to be the best versions of yourself while letting go and being free of stress. 

Click HERE to listen to The Daily Stoic Podcast for FREE!

At First Responder Wellness, we guide those ready to take the path to recovery and wellbeing. We offer various programs within a community of others who know what it is like to be in the front lines. For more information on how we can assist you, call (888) 743-0490.