Mental health illnesses experienced by EMTs, paramedics

When most people in California and across the country consider work-related injuries, they often think of physical injuries caused by a single accident or that occur due to repeated motions over a period of time. However, depending on the profession, workers can also face increased susceptibility to psychological illnesses. In fact, those who work as paramedics and emergency medical technicians often experience such illnesses as a result of the trauma they repeatedly witness.

Studies indicate that those who work as paramedics and EMTS experience higher rates of substance abuse, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressions when compared to the general population. Additionally, such workers also experience higher risks of physical health concerns. Often, these first responders are required to make life-and-death decisions on little sleep with little to no time to decompress afterward.

One licensed psychologist explains that that the way the brain functions may cause someone to misremember the details of an event. Additionally, the brain can resend the details repeatedly. Adrenaline can make the images seems even more frightening and vivid, and the brain sends the images both during waking and sleeping hours. Additionally, over time this can cause areas of the brain associated with memory to shrink.

Despite the harm that these workers face, there is often less resources available to support them. For example, $7.5 million was recently allocated to support the mental health of police officers, but other first responders were not included. Despite this, workers in California are suffering psychological illnesses as a result of being repeatedly exposed to trauma may qualify for workers' compensation insurance benefits. These benefits can help workers who face harm -- either physical or psychological -- as a result of completing their work tasks receive the care that they need.

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