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Emergency First Responders are called on regularly to arrive quickly on the scene of an accident, disaster, or tragedy to eliminate further danger, manage the chaos, treat the wounded, recover the dead, and shelter and comfort the survivors. These are often very upsetting experiences for them. In our ongoing work with responders, we are in awe of their great courage, dedication, and strength. But, we also see their pain and the damage done to their health and relationships.
Despite extensive training and experience, no human brain is designed to handle the horrors responders encounter. This is particularly true in the case of mass fatality shootings. Unlike natural disasters that seem random and out of our control, mass shootings are deliberate acts of violence involving humans acting cruelly toward others. The depth of this evil rocks a responder’s sense of safety and security. For those dedicated to protecting the public, these events remind responders that their efforts and sacrifices can be undone in a moment.
I have spent many hours in conversation with emergency responders who struggled with PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or suicide risk years after a mass casualty event. We continue to work with those who responded to the San Bernardino terrorist attack of two years ago, even as we now begin to work with Las Vegas emergency responders. There is much to be done to promote their recovery. Through research and innovation, we’re creating new tools, techniques, and resources to help these heroes thrive and continue in their important work. We’re working hard to promote their resilience and trauma recovery. They deserve our support, and we need them to be ready next time.
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