Firefighters face death and injury every day when they go out on calls, but as instances of fires decrease and the number of roadway accidents increases, these individuals may experience the trauma of viewing deceased or seriously injured people, which may cause long-term mental health issues.
The U.S. Fire Administration reports that the effects of repeated responses to traumatic accidents can cause a variety of problems, including changes in personality and intrusive flashbacks to these incidents. This is not the only possible result, however; firefighters who respond to accidents of all kinds may also develop other symptoms of exposure trauma.
Some firefighters who witness the results of many accidents may begin to lash out at home and show signs of sudden irritability. This is often the result when they witness the aftermath of accidents and cannot help the victims who die at the scene, causing responders to feel helpless or ineffective.
Poor coping methods
Firefighters who find it difficult to process their trauma may turn to unhealthy habits to push away or ignore their feelings. This may include a variety of negative behaviors, including:
- New or increased drinking
- Drug abuse
- Reckless behavior
These behaviors may grow more extreme as the exposure trauma builds.
Increased cases of post-traumatic stress disorder
While PTSD may develop from one incident, in the case of firefighters, it may take multiple incidents before this issue develops. PTSD can include a variety of symptoms including nightmares, flashbacks and the development of certain triggers that cause periods of restlessness or unstable mood.
Firefighters who suffer from repeated exposure trauma may require assistance from a mental health professional, especially if they find the symptoms intrusive on a daily basis.