A one-of-a-kind recovery center in Maryland does what no other facility in the country can: focuses solely on the mental, emotional, and physical needs of active, injured, and retired firefighters suffering from work-induced post-traumatic stress disorder.
The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery opened in March of 2017, and has already helped hundreds of firefighters struggling with stereotypical and lesser-known symptoms of PTSD.
- Flashbacks to traumatic events (for firefighters, these can vary widely, but include massive fires, serious car accidents, body recovery following natural disasters, crime scenes and more)
- A general feeling of fear, worry or anxiety
- Substance abuse
- Thoughts of suicide (or previous attempts)
- Panic attacks
- Avoiding particular locations (not driving by the scene of a car accident where the firefighter recovered the body of a friend, for example, or avoiding the cemetery where victims of a massive fire are buried)
- Anger, towards oneself and towards others
- Easy irritability, often without a known cause
- Feelings of intense guilt
The Center treats all these different conditions and symptoms holistically, with various types of group and individual therapy, a focus on personal wellness, and even ongoing treatment from a network of providers after the person’s stay at the facility. The end goal is not to “cure” the PTSD, something psychological experts say may not even be possible, but for the firefighters to learn ways to acknowledge symptoms and learn coping strategies to prevent those symptoms from negatively impacting their lives.
We all know that firefighters, like police and other first responders, have a very demanding job, both physically and mentally. They see trauma daily, lose friends in the line of duty, and face potential injury nearly every time they respond to a call. Hopefully, the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery will soon not be the only facility in our state – or our country – to focus in on the well-being of these everyday heroes.