First Responder Mental Health Signs and Symptoms Of Traumatic Stress Injuries

First responders, including police officers, paramedics, firefighters and nurses, face unique
challenges in their daily lives. Their mental health can be negatively impacted if not properly
taken care of. Awareness of the signs and symptoms of mental health issues can help first
responders identify risk factors and get the help they need.

Traumatic stress injuries include conditions that may be triggered when you experience or
witness one or more traumatic events. Learning more about these injuries and how they may
affect you or your loved ones is an essential first step toward taking care of your mental health.

In this section, you will find Signs and Symptoms for a broad range of traumatic stress
conditions and self-assessment tools to help you recognize and measure your symptoms. Use
these tools as a starting point to better understand your mental health as a First Responder.
This is an essential first step in determining how you feel and finding the help you need should
you seek it.

Signs and Symptoms

Mental health issues can manifest in a variety of ways and can even vary from person to person. However, some of the most common signs and symptoms of mental health issues in first responders include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or burned out
  • Feeling disconnected or out of touch with one’s emotions
  • Mood swings or sudden changes in behaviour
  • Withdrawal from activities and people
  • Loss of interest in things that used to bring joy
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances

Risk Factors for Mental Health Issues in First Responders

First responders are at an increased risk for developing mental health issues due to the unique
stresses of their job. Some of the factors that can increase the risk of mental health issues for
first responders include:

  • Prolonged exposure to traumatic events
  • Lack of control over work environment and schedule
  • Stress from long shifts and high-pressure situations
  • Unclear expectations and lack of support
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Limited access to mental health resources

These risk factors can lead to different ways of coping with intrusive memories, depression, and
anxiety that may not be healthy for you or your family, including substance abuse.

Mental Health Support for First Responders

If you or someone you know is experiencing any signs and symptoms of mental health issues,
it’s essential to seek help. Various resources are available to first responders in need of mental
health support. Options may include:

  • Professional counselling
  • Support groups
  • Resilience and stress management training
  • Peer support
  • Mental health hotlines
  • Digital resources (see below)
image of firefighter sitting on firetruck, hand to forehead

Available Resources

Mental Health Conditions

Information on the signs and symptoms of 16 mental health conditions.

First RespondersWebsite 
View all resources