You At Your Best

June 2017 • Mental Health

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YOU AT YOUR BEST | NWADG.COM/YOUATYOURBEST JUNE - MENTAL HEALTH | SATURDAY, MAY 27, 2017 | 21 Emergency Responders Need Safety and Protection with Support Emergency responders, which in- cludes the police, fi refi ghters and paramed- ics who are the fi rst to arrive at the scene of an incident, are in the business of protect- ing others and helping to save lives. These workers are on call during natural disasters, technological failures, terrorist attacks, and many other potentially traumatic events. Emergency responders are the unsung he- roes of many communities that they work hard to keep safe and secure. While emergency responders are he- roes, it's important that people know these brave men and women sometimes need assistance, too. The pressure and stress associated with being an emergency respond- er can sometimes be overwhelming, and it's times like that when emergency responders need help. Comprehensive statistics on stress-re- lated medical condi- tions among fi rst re- sponders are diffi cult to tabulate because many incidents go un- reported or unshared. However, pressures of the job and post traumatic stress disor- der, or PTSD, can take its toll on paramed- ics and law offi cials. EMS World reports that, between January and September of 2014, the United States had around 58 doc- umented fi re/EMS suicides. In Canada, 25 fi rst responders were known to have com- mitted suicide in a fi ve-month period in 2014. Addressing the stress of being an emergency responder can help responders and their families better cope with the pres- sure and stress of the job. The National In- stitute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that all workers involved in fi rst-responder activities should help themselves and others to reduce the risk of stress-related psychological and physical health effects from their jobs. Certain symptoms and behaviors may present themselves when emergency responders are having diffi culty coping with the demands of the job. These symp- toms may include: • Changes in sleeping patterns • Passive or fatalistic behavior • Frequent confl ict and argumentative behavior • Limiting social networks and general withdrawal • Poor problem-solving abilities • Poor concentration • Inability to rest • Self-medicating with alcohol While there is no single method to cope with the physical and psychological demands of a fi rst reponder's job, a combi- nation of therapies can help. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that responders need to take care of their own health to maintain the constant vigilance they need for their own safety. These steps can put workers on the right track. • Form a support net- work in which each responder looks out for one another. Knowing support is available can be a big help. • Take frequent breaks to clear the mind and rest the body. Try to take breaks away from a work area. • Accept what cannot be changed, such as chain of command or long hours. • Take advantage of mental health support services when they are made available. Recognize that it is not indicative of weak- ness to discuss diffi cult emotions. • Maintain a healthy eating pattern and try to get adequate sleep. • Exercise, which can reduce feelings of stress and be a healthy way to clear the mind and strengthen the body. Recognizing that emergency re- sponders are not invincible and may need some emotional support can be the fi rst step in getting these workers the help they need and deserve. – Metro Creative Services Identify Warning Signs of Stress to Prevent Harmful Side Effects Stress is a part of life for many men and women. But as prevalent as stress is, many people are unaware of the poten- tially negative side effects that can result when stress goes untreated. According to the American Psycho- logical Association, chronic stress forces the muscles in the body to be taut and tense for long periods of time, a guarded- ness that can make men and women sus- ceptible to stress-related disorders such as migraine headaches. In addition, the APA notes that stress can cause people to hyperventilate, which can trigger pan- ic attacks in those prone to such events. Long-term stress has also been linked to a host of cardiovascular ailments, including hypertension, heart attack and stroke. Stress can be triggered by a host of things, and what's stressful for some may not be for others. But while people may react differently to certain situations, there are some common warning signs of stress that men and women should learn so they can more quickly address any problems with the stress they might encounter. Physical Symptoms Stress manifests itself in various ways, including physically. Physical symptoms of stress may affect the muscu- loskeletal system, causing muscles to tense up and remain that way until a stressful situation has come and gone. Aches and pains can result as well, and some people coping with stress may experience nausea and dizziness. Stress also can affect the cardiovas- cular system. When that occurs, uncom- fortable and potentially dangerous symptoms such as rapid heart- beat and chest pain may result. Emotional Symptoms Stress also can affect mood. According to the Cleveland Clinic, signs of emotion- al stress include apathy, feeling on edge, a change in eating habits, and changes in sleeping patterns, which may involve sleeping more than usual or diffi culty get- ting to sleep. Cognitive Symptoms Some people coping with stress may have to deal with certain cognitive symptoms. Such men and women may fi nd them- selves in constant states of worry, and their thoughts may race to an extent that makes it diffi cult to accomplish certain tasks. Ad- ditional cognitive symptoms include poor judgment, inability to focus and feelings of forgetfulness and disorganization. Behavioral Symptoms Stress also can affect behavior, and men and women suffering from stress may act nervously. Nail biting, fi dgeting and pac- ing are among the behavioral symptoms of stress, which may be more noticeable to loved ones or colleagues than the in- dividual exhibiting the symptoms. Some people also may procrastinate and avoid their responsibilities when dealing with stress. Increased use of alcohol and drugs or suddenly smoking more cigarettes also are behavioral symptoms of stress. Men and women concerned about stress should consult their physicians and keep an eye out for any potential warning signs that stress levels are reaching un- healthy heights. – Metro Creative Services

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