on 10 Jun 2020 12:23 AM
  • General

As first responders, we are naturally exposed to a higher amount of occupational stress than the average job. Many first responders are able to effectively deal with this stress by having close relationships in the fire house. This brotherhood and sisterhood provides a bonding and social support system that is important in order to stay psychologically resilient.

Covid-19 has forced us to practice "social distancing" not only at the firehouse, but in our personal lives as well. This new practice may affect our mood and our ability to "bounce back", especially after bad calls.

In addition to the global pandemic, we have seen a significant amount of civil unrest across the nation. These uncertain times may require that we change the way that we respond and how we are able to mitigate emergencies. These additional stressors can certainly add to a firefighter's stress.

Please remember to continue to take care of yourselves and your brothers and sisters at the firehouse. Reach out to a friend or a co-worker that you haven't spoken to in a while. Quarantine and isolation are known to increase depression and anxiety. This social isolation might affect those who have recently retired from the fire service at a much higher level. Give those firefighters a call to "check in", as it will likely be much appreciated.

Here are a few other actions that can improve mood and health.

Remember to get outside and exercise. We know that exercise increases dopamine levels in the brain, which increase positive feelings.

Spend time with your immediately family. We may never get another opportunity like this to spend this much quality time at home with our families.

Limit you time on social media. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic can cause political disagreements. Very little of the world's problems have been solved by arguing with someone on Twitter or Facebook. Usually, this just causes feelings of resentment. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181108164316.htm

Practice random acts of kindness. We know that helping others may actually benefit those who provide the help more than those who receive it. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201711/why-random-acts-kindness-matter-your-well-being

Try something new. Now might be the time to learn a new skill, start a new hobby, read that 1000 page book, or work on that project that you've been meaning to do.

Practice gratitude. Studies show that those who practice "mindful gratitude" are happier and healthier than those who experience life as a "half empty glass". https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-exercises/

Reach out for help if you need it. We have many high quality mental health services in Ohio. These organizations are all also providing online services. If you have questions about any of these services, you can reach out to a OAPFF Peer Support Team member. Remember, communications with any Peer Support Team member is confidential. There are also several great online resources for firefighters during the coronavirus.

The OAPFF Peer Support website has multiple resources listed under the "Covid-19" tab. We recently added a link to Magellan Health Systems. This organization is offering free online "support groups" for first responders. You can read more about it here: http://firefightermentalhealth.org/Covid-19.

The IAFF also continues to update their site with many resources for our members. You can access it here: https://www.iaff.org/coronavirus/#behavioral-health-resources

Again, please contact me with any questions, and please stay safe.

Matt Askea

OAPFF Peer Support Team 330-612-6101