Why We Created First Responder Wellness Week
Dr. David Black
First responders are the core foundation of our communities, responsible for preserving the safety, security and civility our society is built upon. Law enforcement personnel, firefighters, dispatchers, corrections officers and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) serve on the front lines every day and night, working tirelessly to keep our communities safe and healthy. While the public outsources worst-case scenarios to these heroes every minute of every day, first responders place themselves selflessly in harm’s way, time and time again, in honor and service of the greater good. Their mission is noble, honorable and righteous.
In their service to our communities, these heroes can face relentless stress, trauma and other challenges that take a heavy toll on mental and physical wellness. That’s why it’s so important to recognize their tremendous contributions and provide our support through initiatives such as the first-ever First Responder Wellness Week this March 27–31.
Lexipol created First Responder Wellness Week to support, raise awareness and promote strong self-care among public safety workers. This inaugural week-long event is designed to honor and celebrate the contributions of first responders while also providing them with valuable tools and resources to help manage the stress and trauma associated with their jobs.
Tools for Trauma
One of the primary reasons we are launching First Responder Wellness Week is the significant amount of stress and trauma that first responders face daily. These individuals often witness and experience traumatic events on a scale that people outside of the first responder world find difficult to comprehend.
It is vital to understand that while first responders are tough and courageous, they are human and they need our support. The stress and trauma they endure stacks up over time, by virtue of their ongoing service to society. Their selfless contributions can exact a heavy toll in the forms of heightened risk for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, heart disease and many other negative mental and physical health outcomes. Mental health challenges, physical health morbidity, cancer risk and early death are all realities within the first responder professions. By dedicating a week to their wellness, we hope to acknowledge these struggles and provide them with the assistance to take care of their mental and physical health.
With First Responder Wellness Week, we are also dedicated to helping to smash the stigma responsible for immeasurable and unnecessary suffering amongst our nation’s finest. First responders face a pervasive stigma that creates a barrier to help-seeking. Their societal roles demand strength, resilience and command presence — virtues that unfortunately often lead to a sense of isolation, helplessness and lack of support when struggling with the dark consequences of their noble work. This stigma must be pulled out of the dark and rejected by all who support first responders. By calling out this stigma for what it is and rejecting it wholeheartedly, we are empowered to replace it with a new cultural standard: The acknowledgment that we are all human, we all need help at times, and we must all support our first responders.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, should ever stand in the way of first responders getting high-quality help and support when they need it.
Furthermore, launching First Responder Wellness Week provides an opportunity for communities to show their strong appreciation for first responders. First responders are dedicated to service and tend not to seek out gratitude. Because of this, they are often taken for granted. We seek to correct this oversight. Those who dedicate their professional lives to keeping our communities safe must never be undervalued or overlooked. Rather, they must be honored, appreciated and respected for their essential roles, innumerable sacrifices and immeasurable value to our communities.
We depend on first responders during the worst moments of our lives. By acknowledging their essential contributions and providing resources to support their wellness, we can show our deep gratitude and appreciation for their service.
A Week of Acknowledgment
During First Responder Wellness Week, first responders will have access to resources such as mental health support, stress management techniques and physical wellness tips. These resources can help them cope with the stress of their jobs and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Additionally, First Responder Wellness Week events will promote public involvement and collaboration, encouraging first responders and community members to work together toward the common goal of supporting those who support us. We ask you to join us in this purpose.
In conclusion, launching First Responder Wellness Week is crucial for recognizing the sacrifices and challenges that first responders face. It provides an opportunity to show appreciation for their vital service and promote strong wellness. When our public safety workers are physically and mentally fit, everyone wins. By dedicating a week to their wellness, we can help reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and provide first responders with the resources they need to manage the stress and trauma of their jobs. Ultimately, this can lead to improved mental and physical health outcomes for these heroes and strengthen our communities as a whole.
Please join me in thanking the heroes on the front lines as we celebrate First Responder Wellness Week.