The Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act of 2023 was reintroduced to Congress in late January. The bipartisan effort is designed to establish mental health programs for first responders. The bill defines first responders as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and 911 dispatchers.
The bill states that an estimated 30% of first responders develop behavioral health conditions, compared to 20% of the general public. Firefighters and police officers have also been reported to have higher suicide rates than non-first responders.
Congress isn’t alone in working to improve the mental health of first responders. Prairie View A&M University has awarded a grant to the psychology department to further research how high-stress positions such as firefighters, police officers and EMTs affect an individual’s mental health. The research will also explore various intervention methods.
Launched in February, Idaho’s Department of Human Services designed a series of programs to provide counseling services and peer support for first responders and their families. The programs aim to target stigma towards mental health care services and barriers to care. One of Idaho’s programs, Lethal Means Safety, is designed to restrict access to “lethal means” objects if a first responder is considered suicidal. It works to ensure firearms are safely locked away if kept in a first responder’s home. The program also works to educate first responders and their families on the stigma toward mental health and the signs they need to watch out for. The program will also build peer support networks within communities.
Read the entire report here.