As the United States invests more resources into security and protection, all levels of law enforcement are affected. After each national crisis, regardless of whether it is natural or man-made, numerous researchers point to the mental health of all of those individuals involved. Police officers, by the very nature of their jobs, are some of the first to respond to disasters. It is no surprise that emergency responders become a major focus in the mental health field after such events.
According to the American Society of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, “the public safety, human services, health, and relief workers comprise the first wave of a response to natural or man-made disasters play a crucial role in emergency preparedness.” (Rutkow, Gable, & Links, 2011) First responders provide care and services in the aftermath of emergencies that may remain in affected communities. First responders typically work long hours under stressful conditions, witnessing loss of human life, and psychological devastation. First responders might also experience physical injuries or psychological harm, due to the nature of their work.
Recent emergency preparedness research efforts have focused on environmental exposures and other risk factors, such as structural instabilities within the built environment, which may impact the physical health of first responders. However, psychological harm is equally important to consider. “Although mental health conditions may be overlooked because they can be difficult to visibly identify and diagnose, their presence may significantly affect first responders’ ability to function.” (Rutkow, Gable, & Links, 2011) After responding to a disaster, studies have shown that first responders experienced elevated rates of depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. First responders without disaster response training face a higher risk of being diagnosed with PTSD.
According to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “laws...