Addressing & Preventing Suicide Rates in EMS

Workplace stress is often a contributor to feelings of depression and anxiety, but those who work as emergency medical personnel experience significantly higher amounts of workplace stress due to the long working hours, traumatic nature of calls, and the emotionally draining nature of their field. With the increased risk of stress comes an increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and a greater likelihood of suicidal ideation. Addressing these situations and the vulnerability of the EMS population starts with awareness and the formation of mental health support strategies for EMS personnel.

The Extent of the Problem

Though data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that nearly 40,000 Americans commit suicide each year, data also shows that first responders have one of the highest suicide attempts and ideation rates across the population. EMS providers experience depression, anxiety, burnout, and PTSD at higher rates than their non-EMS counterparts, leading to increased numbers of suicide deaths in this population. Though horrifying, many challenges keep these numbers high.

The Nature of the EMS Culture

The harsh demands of the calls that EMS personnel receive have caused many to create the need for a tough and compartmentalized approach to their duties. Too many feel that they need to simply deal with the facts because it is part of the job, rather than seeking help or processing their emotions or anxieties over what they have seen or experienced. Because the culture isn’t tolerant of weakness, few individuals speak to their superiors or colleagues to get help for mental health issues. This leads to prolonged situations of instability, and when left unaddressed, takes individuals down a road of suicidal ideation as a way to find relief.

The Options for Preventing Suicide

The challenge with addressing the rising rates of EMS suicides is tracking down providers who are most at risk. The field, as a whole, also needs to work on removing the stigma associated with mental health challenges and put prevention strategies in place for aiding those who are affected. EMS personnel claim that lack of support from their associates and organizations is a leading reason for failing to disclose mental health struggles and that a lack of resources by way of employee assistance programs for suicidal thoughts keeps EMS providers from seeking help.

EMS providers also require additional downtime post calls to process and decompress from the experiences. Getting one tough call after another is draining both physically and psychologically. Time is needed to debrief, and if necessary, seek help for the mental health struggles that might be going on.

EMS agencies can work to reduce suicide deaths and ideations by opening the conversation with their personnel and putting the resources in place to help struggling providers. Listening to the needs of the personnel and providing adequate downtime and mental health support can save the lives of many first responders.

About Provident Insurance Programs 

With roots dating back to 1902, Provident Insurance Programs is a program administrator that serves paid and volunteer firefighters in addition to emergency medical responders with numerous custom-tailored insurance programs. We’ve also extended our expertise and experience to offer benefit plans and coverages to participant groups as well as Transportation Benefits. We are committed to continuing to provide superior customer service, and would be happy to speak with you to provide further information. Give us a call today at (855) 201-8880 to speak with one of our representatives.