First responders are critical to the well-being of our nation. This group of courageous and often selfless people has been called upon even more so today with the nation in the grips of a pandemic. And they continue to answer the call to help. However, for many of them, the daily stressors of the job will lead them to mental health disorders for which they will self-medicate. Some of these individuals who self-medicate will become dependent on that substance eventually finding themselves with a substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD).
In fact, a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 30% of all first responders develop behavioral health disorders. Behavioral health disorders can include substance use issues, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more.
If you or someone you care about is a first responder and has become dependent on a substance or alcohol, it’s important to find an addiction treatment center with programs suited for first responders.
Futures Recovery Healthcare offers three residential treatment programs, treats co-occurring mental health disorders, and offers trauma-informed care. All critical components of effective treatment programs for first responders.
Who Are First Responders?
The term ‘first responders’ can be somewhat ambiguous with some defining it one way and others defining it another way. In general, first responders are those individuals who are ‘first’ on the scene to disasters or other dangerous situations. When they reach the scene, they are usually facing dangerous, challenging, and extremely stressful situations. What each first responder does at the scene can vary. Some provide essential and life-saving medical care while others offer emotional support to others at the scene.
First responders provide enormous and critical support in times of crisis. This role puts them not only in harm’s way many times but also can take a toll on their emotional and mental health. PTSD, depression, substance use disorders, and anxiety are all common results of working in this challenging industry.
The individuals who are included in this group can also vary. However, it can be mostly agreed on that first responders include:
- Law enforcement officers
- Emergency medical personnel
- Emergency response personnel
- Search and rescue workers
- Airline workers
- Military personnel
For each of these groups of first responders, the specific stressors they face and how they cope can be different, however, the high levels of stress and challenges they face on a daily basis are much the same.
One group that is sometimes overlooked as first responders are the airline industry workers. However, for some people in this group, they respond to some of the largest disasters that occur. From pilots and flight attendants to ground crews and disaster response teams, employees in the airline industry face stressors above and beyond what most other occupations do.
Pilots are tasked daily with seeing that hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, arrive safely at their destinations. From unruly customers in the air to mechanical issues, every flight can bring something new and the stress can be enormous.
Flight attendants who work face to face with the passengers also face extreme levels of stress and challenges as part of their daily job. These individuals deal with passengers who are irate, intoxicated, and just plain difficult to turbulence and other safety issues while in flight.
Airline representatives at the gates also are under tremendous stress. From being yelled at to being physically assaulted this group of airline workers is not immune to the stress of working in the airline industry.
Emergency response teams are on the front lines when disaster strikes. From working with families of passengers to helping the survivors of a crash, this team of first responders faces incredible amounts of pressure—much more than those in society who are not first responders.
Anyone who works in the airline industry can face tremendous stress and trauma. And for many, self-medicating is the solution. It’s understandable why. Alcohol, prescription drugs, and nonprescription drugs can be a source of ‘relief’ from the stress of the job. Many people who aren’t in these high-stress occupations reach for the after work cocktail or have a prescription for benzodiazepines (benzos) for anxiety. It only makes sense that those individuals like first responders who are under even more amounts of stress would also seek relief with these common stress relievers.
However, what begins as something to help ‘take the edge off’ can turn to dependence and eventually addiction to one or more than one substance. That’s when self-medicating can become a hindrance, not a help. Futures knows how difficult it can be to even consider letting go of a substance that you’ve become dependent on—often just to help you function. We know just how complicated the disease of addiction is. Futures offers comprehensive care—treating any co-occurring mental health disorders—that gives clients a strong foothold in recovery and a plan to help maintain long-lasting recovery.
First Responders’ Unique Recovery Challenges
Seeking treatment for an AUD or SUD takes courage. No matter what occupation you have, the family you come from, the socio-economic status you hold, taking the first step and asking for help can be difficult.
Despite the progress made in breaking myths associated with addiction to a substance or alcohol, stigmas continue to remain. This can stop many from seeking the help they need. When it comes to first responders associated stigmas often come in between their need for help and actually seeking help.
At Futures, we understand first-hand how important anonymity is when it comes to getting help for an addiction problem—particularly when it comes to first responders and high-profile positions. It can be difficult to be a first responder of any kind and find yourself in treatment with someone you know, let alone someone you’ve had a past work history with who is from the community.
In addition, those in the airline industry are often in safety-sensitive positions. This increases the fear of job loss that many face when they consider seeking help for an AUD or SUD. Another issue when it comes to airline industry workers and getting help, is that many of these individuals are so accustomed to performing under stress and at such high levels they may resist seeking help even more so than their counterparts in society.
Many first responders, including those in the airline industry, have higher thresholds for endurance, are very resilient, and tend to be self-reliant. Many times this leads them to believe they can ‘handle it’ on their own or that they ‘don’t need help’ to overcome a mental health disorder including substance or alcohol use disorders.
Overcoming the fears and resistance associated with getting help is the first—and often most difficult—step on the road of recovery.
Treatment Programs and First Responders: What You to Look For
Treatment programs for first responders must have several components to give individuals the best shot at long-lasting and sustained recovery. As mentioned, anonymity is vital. For some this may mean leaving the community where you live or even the state. It’s difficult to begin healing and engage in early recovery work when you are surrounded by the daily pressures of work life. For this reason and others, residential programs are effective in helping to support clients to remove daily life distractions and focus on recovery.
Trauma goes hand in hand with first responders’ work lives. Facing and healing from traumas are key to long-lasting recovery. Many first responders suffer from PTSD, some from depression, and others from anxiety, and yet still others with different mental health disorders. Treating all underlying issues associated with the SUD or AUD is critical to giving clients the best shot at recovery.
Futures specializes in treating co-occurring disorders and offers trauma-informed care—often so vital for first responders. Applying a focused treatment approach based on evidence-based practices and clinical innovations, the clinical team at Futures works with clients’ specific needs for the best outcomes possible.
Due to the nature of the airline industry and travel, many times the families of those seeking treatment have suffered greatly. Being on shift work and traveling so often can put additional burdens and stress on the families of those in the airline industry. For this reason, having strong family programming as a part of an addiction treatment plan is vital.
Futures works closely with families from the first contact. Whether it’s the family member making the call or the individual themselves the team at Futures understands how crucial it is to not only heal the family but also to create communication that will facilitate long-lasting recovery. The two-day family intensive program at Futures offers family members the opportunity to participate in specific psycho-educational groups, process groups, and therapy sessions with members of the clinical team, including their loved one’s primary therapist.
When it comes to first responders’ addiction treatment programs, it’s important to find one that addresses these unique concerns.
At Futures, we are experienced in working with first responders and even have some on staff. These vital members of our team help to continually refine and reshape programs for first responders to give each client who comes to us for help the best chance possible for long-lasting and sustained recovery.
From the highest standards of medical and clinical care to the nine-acre, inclusive and secure campus to luxury amenities which include a private bedroom and bathroom as well as a dedicated chef who personally attends to each client’s nutritional needs, Futures Recovery Healthcare offers first responders an environment of healing and recovery that meets their one of a kind recovery needs.
You don’t have to go it alone or suffer from addiction anymore. Futures is here to help.
If you or a loved one need help for a SUD or AUD contact Futures today. Reach out confidentiality online or by phone at 866-804-2098.