Trauma, stress felt by first responders is huge mental health risk

Haymarket Center will inaugurate the first in a series of three-day retreats to support law enforcement professionals who have experienced critical incident-related trauma.

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First responders risk mental health problems due to trauma, stress.

First responders will learn how to deal with the trauma and violence they experience on the job through a series of workshops the Haymarket Center will be offering starting this month.

Tiffany Blanchette | AP Photos

How do first responders manage to witness trauma and violence day in and out without damage to their mental health and emotional well-being? This is a key question, aptly raised in the recent op-ed, “Mental health programs for our first responders must be improved, expanded.”

The simple and direct answer is: Trauma and stress experienced by first responders in fact poses significant mental health risk. While attracting little attention, and even less response, we know law enforcement officers and other first responders deal with mental health consequences from relentless exposure to personal danger, violence and animosity. During the past three years, the assault on their mental health may have worsened due to increasing violence and pandemic-related stress.

One reason for the gap in awareness and support for the emotional well-being of first responders is the stigma associated with mental health conditions. At Haymarket Center, fighting stigma is at the center of our approach to care. Recognizing the importance of fighting stigma and offering resources to address the issue, we have come forward to host a response.

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This month, we will inaugurate the first in a series of three-day retreats to support law enforcement professionals who have experienced critical incident-related trauma. The retreat is meant to be preventive, protective and highly practical. Participants will learn the symptoms and effects of traumatic stress, practice wellness and resilience strategies and experience debriefing support to address stress.

They will also learn about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, an evidence-based treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Haymarket Center’s board, staff and one of our supporters, Embassy Suites, believe a healthy workforce is critical to the safety of all of us.

This will be one of many such programs for first responders, offered with the conviction that mental health resources for them are imperative for truly strong communities.

Dan Lustig, president and CEO, Haymarket Center

The Holocaust stands alone

I sat in stunned disbelief when I read gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey’s comparison of abortion to the Holocaust.

While there is a genuine legal and political debate about abortion, there is no place in this debate to invoke the horror of the atrocities of the Holocaust, a genocide of 6 million living Jewish human beings in Europe during World War 2. Two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population was obliterated. These were people: adults and children, even entire families, whose lives were brutally cut short and who were victims of starvation, rape, torture, evil medical experiments and other unspeakable brutality, and mass murder. 

If the Nazis had succeeded completely, I wouldn’t be here now to write this message. It is personal to me, and I believe the most dangerous place for even one person’s perception of antisemitism to grow is among elected officials. 

In support of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Jewish citizens of Illinois and everyone who cares about justice and human rights, I strongly urge politicians, especially Bailey, not to make blithe comparisons between the Holocaust and any other historical tragedy. This one must stand alone. 

Jeffery M. Leving, attorney

Columbus comeback?

Instead of having taxpayer money go to protect a non-living statue of Christopher Columbus, why not use that money to help protect us from violence? Or just keep the statue in storage until a time when we can all accept that some of our heroes are flawed.

Tom DeDore, Garfield Ridge

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