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Mental Health in Firefighters
From large scale disasters to minor car wrecks, people look up to firefighters as heroes. They are revered as brave and tough in any situation and their heroics are praised. But there is a side we rarely see to our firefighters. Because firefighters are first responders and arrive on scene to nearly any given situation, they often experience the worst of the situation. Firefighting is one of the most dangerous occupations in America, due to the situations they are put into. Though, with most incidents, firefighters come out unscathed and usually intact. Sometimes incidents mentally scar firefighters and other first responders for years or even decades afterwards. According to firechief.com, firefighting is the second most stressful job in America and with this stress comes mental and physical exhaustion and a myriad of health problems( Mary Roberts, Firefighting The Second Most Stressful Job in Nation, firechief.com). The public does not know much about the mental health issues that arise in firefighting and many professional firefighters chose not to seek help. This paper will deal with key components of the mental health of firefighters including:
? Evaluation of mental health during the hiring process.
? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
? Help Available and CISM
Mental Illness during the Hiring Process
For almost every fire department across the country, the hiring process is a grueling one. Consisting of a physical test, written exam, oral exams, background checks, medical checks and placement on lists, people generally overlook the psychological portion of the exam (chabotfire.com) . As one of the most critical portions of the exam, it can sometimes be the deciding factor between rejection and further movement in the hiring process (Captain Bob, You Have to Pass the Psych Test, eatstress.com). Psychological exams are always claimed not to be a mental health evaluation, but to make sure the candidate will ?fit? with the department. On average, the psychological evaluation consists of two parts; a written test and an interview with a psychologist. For the written portion the most common way of testing candidate is using the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory Interview (Captain Bob, A Proactive Approach to The Psychological Test, fireengineering.com).
The MMPI is a psychological test that tests personality traits and psychopathology (Jane Framingham, Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory, psychcentral.com). The MMPI is currently available in two testing forms, the MMPI-2 and MMPI-2-RF with 567 true and false questions and 338 true and false questions respectively (Jane Framingham, Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory, psychcentral.com). Most commonly used for fire departments
is the MMPI-2. After the test is scored the psychologist interprets the results into a report about the candidate?s current and historical psychological condition (Jane Framingham, Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory, psychcentral.com). After the written test is the interview with the psychologist. According to some reports, up to 40% of candidates are eliminated after the psychological exams(Captain Bob, You Have To Pass the Psych Test, eatstress.com). The tests weed out who may not be suitable to being a firefighter. Most fire departments also look at past mental health issues during the hiring process. Any candidate with significant mental illness will be eliminated from the process. People who ?pass? the psychological exams are cleared for hiring and go onto become firefighters where the real issues can show up later on in life.
Stress on Firefighters
As stated earlier, firefighting was ranked as the second most stressful job in all of America behind enlisted soldiers. With this being said, what is stress? According to stress is any physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental unrest (Jay Marks, Stress, medicinenet.com). This change can be negative, positive or neutral effect on an individual, but in our modern life we tend to look at stress as something negative that effects are lives (Jay Marks, Stress, medicinenet.com). There is no clear set definition of what is a stressor, because everyone has different stressors that can affect them. What one person may find as stressful, another may think of it as fun or pleasurable (Jay Marks, Stress, medicinenet.com). Things that can stress a person can be job changes, relationships, problems with home or challenges we might face (Jay Marks, Stress, medicinenet.com). Stress can have a number of effects on the human body, mood and behavior. Stress can cause headaches, chest pain, sleep problems, fatigue, anxiety, depression, anger, drug and alcohol abuse, social withdrawal and angry outbursts (Jay Marks, Stress, medicinenet.com).
With firefighters any number of things can cause stress.
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Stress, Anxiety disorders, Aftermath of war, Military medicine, Military psychiatry, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Psychological trauma, Firefighter, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Combat stress reaction, Firefighting, Malingering of posttraumatic stress disorder, mental health evaluation, traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues, dangerous occupations, professional firefighters, physical exhaustion, scale disasters, post traumatic stress, medical checks, post traumatic stress disorder, psychological exams, stressful job, psych test, critical portions, physical test, captain bob, oral exams, car wrecks, hiring process, background checks
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