How to Support Veterans and First Responders with Mental Health
Veterans and first responders are among the most courageous and selfless people in our society.
They put their lives on the line to protect and serve us, often facing stressful and traumatic situations the likes of which most of us will never face.
Not surprisingly, these experiences have lasting effects on their mental and emotional health.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, first responders—including firefighters, emergency medical services (EMS) and police officers—are at an increased risk for mental health issues such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, stress, and suicidal behaviors¹. In 2017, suicide deaths among firefighters and police officers outnumbered deaths in the line of duty¹.
As a community, we owe it to our veterans and first responders to support and help them cope with the challenges they face.
How to Support First Responders with Mental Health Battles
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that we can serve and support our heroes as they work through mental health crisis.
Here are just a few:
- Educate: educate yourself and others about the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and how to respond to them.
Some common signs include changes in mood, behavior, or personality, withdrawal from social activities, loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, increased use of alcohol or drugs, and thoughts of harming oneself or others¹.
If you notice any of these signs in a veteran or first responder we know, reach out to them, and express our concern and care. Encourage them to seek professional help and offer to assist them in finding the appropriate resources.
There are helplines that can provide immediate assistance in a crisis, or which can connect the individual to the help they need.
Numbers to call include:
- Mental Health Crisis Lifeline: text 9-8-8
- Veterans & First Responders in Crisis: 1-800-273-8255
- The Honor Movement Foundation: 202-805-2636
- The Marine Corps DISTRESS Line: 1-877-476-7734
- Demonstrate: you can help support and encourage our heroes by showing your appreciation and gratitude for their service and sacrifice.
There are many ways you can do this, and get your whole family involved as well. Sending letters, notes, drawings, snacks, and hygiene items either directly to individuals you know personally, or through organizations like Operation Gratitude¹, which thanks first responders for their service, makes a meaningful impact in the lives of those serving us, who can often feel unseen and unappreciated.
You can also participate in events, like our annual Ruck to Remember, which honors our fallen heroes on Memorial Day and raises funds and awareness for the Honor Movement Foundation as we work to supports the families of the fallen and provide mental health, financial, and other resources for veterans, active duty military, and first responders.
- Provide: you can also help provide emotional and practical support to the families and loved ones of first responders and veterans.
You can do this by checking in on them regularly, offering to help with household chores, childcare, or errands, listening to their concerns and feelings, and being there for them in times of need.
The schedule of a first responder or active-duty military individual can make balancing family life very difficult, so offering tangible help with everyday needs can go a long way in providing support that makes a huge difference in their life.
You can also provide financial support to organizations like ours, as we provide immediate financial relief to families of the fallen and help connect them to resources as they recover from their loss and transition into a life without their loved one.
- Volunteer: finally, you can volunteer and/or donate to organizations that support veterans and first responders.
There are many organizations that provide various services and programs for veterans and first responders, such as counseling, peer support, wellness, education, financial support, crisis assistance, and advocacy.
At The Honor Foundation, we need more volunteers and donors who can help us on our mission as we strive to serve our emergency personnel, active military, and veterans who have been injured, who are battling addictions or mental health problems, or who are struggling with their transition to civilian life.
We need people like you to volunteer your time, skills, and/or resources or donate to support the work of serving those who have already served us.
What Will You Do?
Veterans and first responders are heroes who deserve our respect and recognition and who need our help.
By supporting them and their mental health, we can show them that we care and that they are not alone. Together, we can make a difference in their lives and honor their service.
So, who will you take a moment to write a note to or check on today?
If you’d like to learn more about how you can serve those who have served through The Honor Movement, visit our website today: Home – The Honor Movement Foundation