Supporting first responders with traumatic stress

fire fightersFirst responders coping with traumatic stress are more likely to seek help from a life partner than from their organizations, U of G researcher Grace Ewles has found.

Those finding spurred Ewles to make trauma and PTSD resources more accessible for firefighters, police officers, paramedics, rescue workers, and their family members. She developed the website to provide avenues to peer and family support and to offer information on mental health services for first responders and trauma workers.

Events on the job can have a deeply traumatic impact on first responders, especially scenes involving children, and homicides or suicides, Ewles says.

“There are some events that can push an individual to their psychological and emotional limit.”

Grace Ewles
Grace Ewles

Many individuals attempt to suppress emotional reactions and cope by themselves, says Ewles, who completed her PhD in industrial-organizational psychology at U of G last year.

“But in the cases where they do seek support, more frequently they are seeking it from those more personal connections.”

In two surveys of public safety personnel, Ewles found stigma related to mental health difficulties and cultural factors involving public safety personnel led workers to avoid more formal supports.