First Responder

EMS, police, and firefighters, are often the first people to deal with incidents that pose significant threats to health and life. These work-related exposures and stressors result in an increased risk for mental health conditions, in particular, the presence of posttraumatic stress. The incidence of PTSD among first responders is considerably higher than the general population. And, there is an elevated risk for suicide among first responders. There are, however, protective factors that can be learned and practiced.

1. Background and Overview

Overview of protective factors based on recommendations of the World Health Organization. And, an entirely educational approach how to learn and practice those protective factors.

  • Resilience: Why and How, Part 1 of 3. An entirely educational approach to preventative measures for dealing with stress and suicide. Part 1 provides a brief overview based on World Health Organization recommendations. (2 minutes) Video »
  • Resilience: Why and How, Part 2 of 3. Part 2 provides an overview and exercises for learning positive-coping skills and developing a social support system. Based on the Hero's Journey. (4 minutes) Video »
  • Resilience: Why and How, Part 3 of 3. Part 3 is a continuation Part 2 and offers additional exercises for learning positive-coping skills and developing a social support system. (4 minutes) Video »

2. Learning to be Resilient

We might define stress as the body’s response to demands or pressures. There are protective factors to stress. Resilience is, in part, the development of positive-coping skills needed to manage stress in an optimal way. While positive-coping skills are helpful to becoming more resilient, we are also working towards understanding the importance of teamwork through a social support system. So, like many sports, as we learn the game, we are also learning how to work as a team.

  • Workbook: Educators Multiuse Handbook for Resilience. The workbook covers five positive-coping skills and provides exercises for learning the skills. The material is follows recommendations of the World Health Organization for suicide prevention. The material is entirely educational and can be used for training at an agency level. The workbook is organized for both first responder and family. Why? Because the family is often the most important part of a first responders social support system. So, we, as first responders, need to assure that our families are equally protected from life's stresses to include those we bring home with us. Those of you with preteens will want to first explore the resilience skill exercises and then adapt them for your children. For example, exercises that include writing skills beyond that of your child can be explored orally. Children need to recognize that their social support system can really help them with their challenges. Educators Multiuse Handbook for Resilience PDF »

Resilience 'App'

A simple a web-based application that parallels the content of the five skill resilience quick reference, and further allows you to create your own resilience skills. The simple app permits exploration of a personal challenge using any of the skills. All data is stored locally on your computer or device.

  • Run it! More »
  • Download Resilience Application. Download the entire app and run it on your own device. Download, unzip, start your browser and Open the index.html file in the FiveSkillApp folder to run this on your browser. Resilience App zip »

Case Study

An evidence-based program for improving and sustaining first responder behavioral health. First Responder Behavioral Health, Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS)

Preventing suicide: A global imperative

World Health Organization report provides a global knowledge base on suicide and suicide attempts, and actionable steps for countries based on their current resources and context to move forward in suicide prevention. Link »

Those Providing Support

The following is a list of institutions who have graciously asked to be identified as providing support and resources to those in need. More »


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