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Other Than Peer-Support Officers, What Other Mental Health Professionals Can Assist Emergency Personnel?

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Mental illness-related stigma, including that which exists in the healthcare system and among healthcare providers, creates serious barriers to access and quality care. It is also a major concern for healthcare practitioners themselves, both as a workplace culture issue and as a barrier for help seeking.

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Peer support workers are people who have been successful in the recovery process who help others experiencing similar situations. Through shared understanding, respect, and mutual empowerment, peer support workers help people become and stay engaged in the recovery process and reduce the likelihood of relapse. Peer support services can effectively extend the reach of treatment beyond the clinical setting into the everyday environment of those seeking a successful, sustained recovery process

Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS) is enriched by the lived experiences of people in recovery, who play key roles in BRSS TACS project leadership, development, and implementation.Peer support workers may need to develop additional core competencies to provide services to specific groups who also share common experiences, such as family members. The shared experience of being in recovery from a mental health and/or substance use condition or being a family member is the foundation on which the peer recovery support relationship is built in the behavioral health arena.

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Protecting the population’s health is a vital part of preserving national security and the continuity of critical national functions. However, public health and public safety workers experience a broad range of health and mental health consequences as a result of work-related exposures to natural or human-caused disasters (Benedek et al., 2007). First responders involved in these occupations are exposed to hazards inherent in the nature of their jobs (Plat, Frings-Dresen, & Sluiter, 2011). Examples include exposure (direct or indirect) to death, grief, injury, pain, or loss as well as direct exposure to threats to personal safety, long hours of work, frequent shifts and longer shift hours, poor sleep, physical hardships, and other negative experiences. Many natural or technological disasters produce overwhelming disruption to the social, familial, economic, and physical structure of the affected community (Mitchell, 2011; Miller, 2011). Disaster response is usually made up of a wide array of professional and volunteer organizations with varying levels of disaster experience. Collateral damage, or the intra- and interpersonal disturbances that arise from disaster work, can be observed among both professional and volunteer first responders.

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In fact, sharing personal experiences with those who have shared similar experiences is a powerful healing tool. Weekend workshops, one-on-one and in small or large groups. By taking equal and uninterrupted turns we benefit by both listening and speaking

By expressing the feelings associated with our experiences, we help each other heal. In providing an environment that is confidential, safe, and accepting.

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Mitchell, J. T. (2011). Collateral damage in disaster workers. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, 13(2), 121–125.

Benedek, D. M., Fullerton, C., & Ursano, R. J. (2007). First responders: Mental health consequences of natural and human-made disasters for public health and public safety workers. Annual Review of Public Health, 28, 55–68.

Plat, M. J., Frings-Dresen, M. H., & Sluiter, J. K. (2011). A systematic review of job-specific workers’ health surveillance activities for fire-fighting, ambulance, police and military personnel. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 84(8), 839–857

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