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

Disassociation substance abuse and mental health

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?”

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