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Increased need to support first responder mental health: Study

first responder

First responders in Ohio experienced increased mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, and public health researchers are now putting forth recommendations for policymakers and community members to aid front-line workers who are combatting such illnesses across the country.

Researchers with West Virginia University’s School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy Management and Leadership, published a study Monday in the Community Mental Health Journal that addresses mental health within the first responder community.

The authors looked at opportunities and challenges faced by those pushing mental health policies and programs in the first responder community, using Ohio as focal point given that state’s support for measures benefitting first responders, such as 2021 legislation expanding workers compensation eligibility for first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The study says that more programs and policies are needed to help first responders suffering from mental illnesses amid increased workload demands and cumulative stressors stemming from staffing constraints because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers concluded that a need exists to adopt and implement new programs and policies supporting first responder mental health on the local, state and federal levels, and that non-governmental stakeholders should play their part in supporting mental health initiatives for front-line workers.    

Recommendations included establishing centralized organizations to coordinate policy and programming activities, expand mental health policy research and evaluation efforts, and link first responders with culturally competent clinicians.