If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that our first responders are a vital part of our communities. From the EMTs and hospital workers to the National Guard members who have helped see us through the worst of COVID-19, first responders are more than deserving of a thank you from all of us. Thankfully, National First Responders Day is an opportunity to do just that. Below is everything you need to know about National First Responders Day, as well as what you can do to get involved.
What Is National First Responders Day?
National First Responders Day was first recognized by the United States Congress in 2017. Since then, October 28th has served as the date for the country to celebrate the 25 million brave men and women who make it their business to take action when disaster strikes.
First responders dedicate their lives to saving lives, and as a result, deserve a day of national recognition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 97 firefighters and 155 police officers die each year in the line of duty. Additionally, their rate of occupational injury is significantly higher than the national average.
While first responders are an essential part of our communities, they often face challenges that go far beyond their work. These can include things like mental illness, occupational injuries, and strains on their emotional well-being. This has been one of the most important parts of National First Responders Day.
Oftentimes, the very same people who are putting their lives at risk are our neighbors, friends, community members, or family. But, who are first responders, and who is being celebrated on National First Responders Day?
Who Are First Responders?
Generally speaking, a first responder is someone who has specialized training and is among the first to arrive, handle, or provide assistance at the scene of an emergency. These emergencies can be anything from an accident, natural disaster, terrorist attack, or pandemic. In some instances, emergency department personnel are required to respond to disasters or accidents, designating them as first responders.
The term first responder typically applies to law enforcement officers (LEO), firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMT), 911 dispatchers, and armed forces like the National Guard or military reserves. These individuals are either first on the scene of an emergency or help facilitate the initial response of emergency responders (dispatchers).
The criteria for a first responder, being first on scene, excludes some professions that many may think of as a “first responder.” These include occupations such as doctors or other medical professionals, Transportation Security Officers (TSA), security officers, sanitation workers, volunteers in police service (VIPs), and other like professions.
How To Show Support During National First Responders Day
There are a number of different ways you can get involved in National First Responders Day. One of the easiest ways to show your support is to simply say thanks. Thank You First Responders in a grassroots movement and non-profit organization whose goal is just that. The group is dedicated to helping raise awareness, support, celebrate, honor, and most importantly say thank you to our nation’s first responders. Thank You First Responder partners with local community groups, businesses, and organizations across the country to help say thank you to those who put their lives on the line every day.
The most important point the group advocates for is saying thank you to those in your community who are first responders. Whether you’re passing by a firefighter, or notice an EMT at the local coffee shop, saying thank you costs nothing and helps show first responders your appreciation.
Another great way to show your support during National First Responders Day is through social media. There are several major social media accounts dedicated to raising awareness for first responders. During National First Responders Day, many accounts ask that you share in reposting the first responder flag to show your support. The flag uses one line of each color associated with the different branches of first responders on top of the American flag. The colors, from top to bottom, are as follows:
- Gray (Corrections)
- Yellow (Dispatch)
- Blue and White (EMT/EMS)
- Red and White (Nurses)
- Red (Firefighters)
- Blue (Police)
- Green (Armed Forces)
While supporting our first responders is an important part of National First Responders Day, another important, often overlooked aspect, is raising awareness about first responder mental health.
First Responder Mental Health Programs
Raising awareness about first responder mental health is an extremely important part of National First Responders Day. Due to the nature of a first responder’s occupation, they are continually put in harm’s way and are regularly exposed to trauma. First responders are normally the first people to arrive at the scene of an emergency or tragic event. They are usually the first people to help survivors and provide aid to those who may be caught in a trauma situation. These responsibilities are extremely important, but over time can put a strain on any first responder’s mental health.
According to data collected by researchers by Nova Southeastern University, 80% of first responders report experiencing traumatic events regularly on the job. Similar studies have found that nearly 30% of first responders develop a mental health condition as a result of their occupation, with the most common being post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other common mental illnesses found among first responders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Substance use disorder
- Suicide/suicidal ideation
With such a high prevalence of mental illness, there is a growing need for first responder mental health programs. Two such organizations are the First Responder Center for Excellence and The Code Green Campaign. Both organizations are first responder-oriented mental health advocacy groups that help bring awareness to the high rates of mental illness among first responders.
Veteran First Responder Mental Health Programs
The specialized training required by EMTs or police officers leads many military veterans to become first responders themselves. According to an analysis of U.S. Census data, while only six percent of the population has served in the military, nearly 20% of all police officers are veterans.
While this overlap in careers provides veterans the experience necessary for the job, the trauma first responders face can be tough for veterans to deal with.
One organization that specializes in helping veterans overcome mental illness is Heroes’ Mile. Heroes’ Mile is a treatment facility created by veterans, for veterans, and specializes in treating conditions that many veterans face. The team at Heroes’ Mile is staffed by mental health experts, addiction specialists, physicians, and veterans who know exactly what it’s like to serve.
Veterans who go on to become first responders are at an increased risk of conditions such as PTSD and substance abuse. That’s why Heroes’ Mile has made it their mission to offer those brave servicemen and women the best treatment available. Through years of hands-on experience with veterans, Heroes’ Mile has crafted a truly comprehensive treatment program for many different ailments faced by military personnel.
Heroes’ Mile has three locations, DeLand, Florida, Longview, Texas, and Las Vegas, Nevada. If you or a loved one is looking for a veteran-friendly treatment facility, Heroes’ Mile is a great place to start.
National First Responders Day is almost here. Whether you choose to volunteer with organizations like Thank You First Responders, donate to charities, or fly the first responder flag, getting involved with National First Responders Day is easy.
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