An alarming percentage of emergency medical service (EMS) workers are struggling with their mental health. A recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders sheds light on the state of the industry regarding mental health. The results, while not entirely surprising, are dire, and they reveal the need for more intervention and training.
Read on to learn more about the day-to-day challenges paramedics and other EMS workers face, and how EMS instructors with the right resources can help get paramedics and EMTs ready for the strenuous realities of the job.
Mental Health Issues 3 Times More Likely in EMS Workers
The study found that EMS workers are three times more likely than members of the public to experience mental health issues, including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Researchers posited that increased stressors on the job, including traumatic experiences responding to calls involving gruesome injury or death, are to blame for this increase. The researchers pointed to social conflict on the job and the work’s physical intensity as additional stressors.
As the stressors mount, so do mental health issues in many EMS workers. Worse, these stressors can accumulate over time, with high-stress calls adding about 5 percent to a worker’s PTSD symptom severity levels each time they occur.
Recommended Protective Behaviors
The study made recommendations for the field and the people who work in it. First among these was “developing or refining communications strategies,” a key tactic in helping workers find both the vocabulary and the peer support needed to honestly communicate their emotional state.
Speaking honestly about stressors is one proven tactic for alleviating stress, but many EMS personnel struggle to open up. They aren’t sure how to and may fear negative responses from peers.
Evolution in Training
EMS instructors tend to focus on preparing students for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exams, the set of practical and written exams that students must pass to become registered EMS workers. To be clear, this focus is vitally important.
Though EMS workers may pass the test with flying colors, they may yet be unprepared for the emotional and mental health toll of working in this field.
Many EMS instructors desire to fully prepare students for success in the field, not just for a passing grade on the NREMT. But it’s not always obvious where to turn for resources focused on mental health in the emergency medical response field.
Resources That Directly Meet This Need
Public Safety Group understands the crucial need for better EMS mental health training, and the company has produced two courses that directly meet this need: the Mental Health Resilience Officer Course and First Responder Support & Resilience.
These resources address mental health in first responder and emergency medical response scenario, but the company’s commitment to mental health goes far deeper. The philosophy of addressing mental health alongside practical instruction is baked into all PSG products.
PSG’s goal is to provide more than just the training tools that help individuals enter public safety fields. The company’s goal is to empower individuals to enter their fields fully prepared to face the day-to-day challenges and stressors common in EMS work. This includes coping with depression, PTSD, and other forms of trauma that are ever-present risks on the job.
Mental Health Resilience Officer Course
Recognizing the impact of both direct and vicarious trauma on the EMS workforce, Public Safety Group has produced, in partnership with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), a course that assists EMS agencies in providing mental health resilience support to their teams by training individuals within those teams to serve as a Mental Health Resilience Officer.
This Mental Health Resilience Officer course offers:
- Education on mental health issues
- Information on how to identify signs of those issues developing
- Direction on how to direct peers to appropriate services to get the help they need
First Responder Support & Resilience
The second course highlighted here is an interactive simulation-based course designed to increase resilience and an awareness of available support among all first responders, including EMS personnel.
Through case studies that mimic real-world traumatic or high-stress events, participants gain new vocabulary and soft skills for checking in with peers or opening up themselves.
The First Responder Support & Resilience course includes five interactive scenarios where students will role-play as they speak with animated, emotionally responsive virtual peers.
These are the scenarios included in the course:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Major depression
- Substance abuse
- Mental health stigma reduction
- Seeking help
EMS instructors who’d like to learn more can visit the respective course pages or reach out directly to learn more about the EMS instructor trainings that PSG has to offer.