For our first year in operation, and as a plan we will conduct annually, we released a survey to public service professionals on the topic of mental health and addiction. Questions on the survey included things about employers and personal information and experiences that people have had. The results were not exactly what we had expected. We identified some holes in process of seeking help from your employer or agency and we also got some good feedback on what we should be doing as an organization. As with anything on the internet, some trolls made an appearance. We were able to weed out these responses and keep it to a solid information base. Overall, 129 viable responses were scored which exceeded our goal for our first survey by 29. Please take special note to questions that have answers like “I should be, but I am not” or “I’m not sure”. A majority of the people surveyed are from EMS which in relations to numbers, makes this an effective EMS related survey as well. Please note that we did not include all of the comments to employers/agencies as some were duplicates. We have also redacted or generalized portions of the responses as they were too specific to remain anonymous. Here are the results:
1: How did you hear about this survey?
- FaceBook: 96.1%
- Email: 0%
- Word of mouth: 2.3%
- Other: 1.6%
2: What best describes the industry you work in?
- Fire Department: 33.3%
- EMS: 58.9%
- Law Enforcement: 3.1%
- Dispatch: 3.1%
- Disaster Services: 1.6%
3: Does your agency offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?
- Yes: 76%
- No: 11.6%
- I’m not sure: 12.4%
4: Do you feel that your agency is capable (or competent) of responding to a mental health or addiction situation?
- Yes: 35.7%
- No: 42.6%
- I’m not sure: 21.7%
5: Have you ever utilized your employer or it’s EAP services for a mental health or addiction situation?
- Yes: 17.1%
- I have not had this experience: 59.7%
- I chose other means of seeking help: 23.3%
6: Have you ever suffered a mental health or addiction crisis?
- Yes: 52.7%
- No: 41.9%
- Prefer not to answer: 5.4%
7: Have you ever attended a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) or similar program stemming from an event in your area?
- Yes: 68.2%
- No: 27.9%
- These are not offered in my area: 3.1%
- I am unable to attend these: 0.8%
8: Would you attend a CISD or similar program if it were offered to you?
- Yes: 82.2%
- No, these program do not appeal to me: 17.8%
9: Are you currently under the care of a Physician or medical provider for mental health purposes?
- Yes: 29.5%
- No: 57.4%
- I should be, but I am not: 11.6%
- This does not appeal to me: 1.6%
10: Are you currently under the care of a Physician or medical provider for a substance abuse/misuse issue:
- Yes: 1.6%
- No: 93%
- I should be, but I am not: 4.7%
- This does not appeal to me: 0.8%
11: Have you ever thought about suicide?
- Yes: 48.1%
- No: 48.1%
- Prefer not to answer: 3.9%
12: Have you ever attempted suicide?
- Yes: 8.5%
- No: 89.1%
- Prefer not to answer: 2.3%
13: Do you take, or should you be taking medication for a mental health or addiction problem?
- Yes: 27.1%
- No: 66.7%
- I should be, but I am not: 7%
14: Do you feel that your agency or employer has adequate resources to help it’s employees or members?
- Yes: 30.2%
- No: 44.2%
- I’m not sure: 25.6%
Notable comments from suggestions to employers on mental health and addiction:
- Start a peer group.
- Talk about it more.
- More peer support and less formal, management driven support.
- The Chief of my department is a strong supporter of peer support and wellness in the department. With that being said the peer support team is not funded in the budget. We need to start funding behavioral health.
- Make help feel less intimidating, make it easier for people to reach out as asking for help is the hardest step.
- Reach out to employees who are obviously in need.
- Spread the word about available programs more than they do. It’s just a word of mouth thing right now.
- Make services available without the stigma that information will be utilized against the employee.
- Develop our team within and use outside resources. They are not committed to mental health workers. Work them to the bone for us. Don't restrict things like PTO and sick time.
- Provide better insurance to cover mental health.
- I think that my organization is doing a great job on breaking down the stigma of asking for help or admitting that you experienced something traumatic. However, sometimes their approach to helping feels blanketed and not targeted for individuals.
- When they think someone has an issue, have a department meeting with the help of a Psychiatrist or counselor.
- Provide EMS specific treatment.
- Work toward and supervisor to crew relationship where a supervisor can talk about a tough day or mental health issue with a crew member instead of being shut in their office or fly car all the time. I’ve only had one I could talk to and he left.
- Offer continuous/ongoing groups.
- The agency acts as if every should be pillars of steel. They must break this attitude down and make sure that an employee in need should be the number one priority. The only time EAP is suggested is when you get into trouble or do something wrong.
- I feel my agency goes above and beyond to support those in need, but they need to be proactive with monitoring at-risk members.
- Easier and fast access to mental health help.
- Have help numbers available.
- Better resources and job-specific providers that understand the job and schedule.
- Pay more attention to it’s members and be there for them rather than making them jump through hoops.
- Stop attaching a stigma to people who seek help.
- More available time off; a boss who cares.
- It seems like the only options are disability when PTSD is a diagnosis and is clearly documented by a Physician.
- The higher-up staff need to work in the field to be able to understand what psychological stressors the employees are facing. It seems all too common that management forgets where they came from.
- I would suggest posting brochures or other types of papers with information on where people can go for help with their needs, both local and out of town.
- Be aware of employees circumstances. Offer CISD to employees affected and let them decide if they want to participate.
- While I was Deputy Chief, I was able to get our town to extend the EAP to cover department members. The current Chief has basically squashed my efforts due to him being stuck 30 decades ago. I would like to see a state law requiring all departments to implement a plan.
- It’s a constant battle against the stigma; they could be more open and less judgmental.
- Be more supportive when an incident occurs.
- Keep trying and adding programs. Knowing that they are at least trying to have programs helps.
- Add confidential one-on-ones and the ability to become part of the healing process for others.
- It’s a serious issue that being seen more today and should be focused on a lot more.
- Managers need to realize that some of the strongest people shouldn’t be taken for granted.
- Get involved more. Posting a flyer is not enough.
- There’s always a risk of losing your job.
- With past suicides, it’s time to address the lack of resources.
- Find a way to offer mental health or crisis debriefing/aid, or be able to send the member in the right direction for these resources.
- I wish they actually cared about us as a people, not just “meat in a seat”.
- Any employer should be 110% behind ay of their employees that seek any services requiring help and be committed to them.
- Be more observant.
- Train on EAP options more; make it understood as an option.
- Treat your employees like people, not numbers. Try actually caring about them and not just shoving a piece of paper in their face.
- Don’t turn a blind eye to it, and not assume the employee is faking it to get time off from work, and that a mental health issue is fixable so the person can come back to work once the issue has been addressed.