How Veterans and First Responders Experience Trauma

How Veterans and First Responders Experience Trauma

Despite advances in healthcare research, it is still unclear exactly how trauma affects our bodies and brains. We know that most people experience some variation of trauma in their lifetime. And for some people, it can lead to diseases like addiction and mental health disorders. Research indicates that some coping and treatment methods are more effective than others, and a person’s individual life experiences and genetic makeup will impact how they are able to draw on coping mechanisms. 

Due to the frequency of exposure to traumatic situations, veterans and first responders are among the most at-risk populations for the eventual failure of their coping strategies.

At Relevance Recovery, we specialize in treating disorders experienced by veterans and first responders. Our individualized programs in New Jersey will help you or your loved one fight the disease that is impacting your life. You can even verify your insurance benefits prior to completing the entire admissions process. Contact us today to get started. 

Veterans and Trauma

For a veteran, trauma often occurs in the field of duty during combat or training. When combined with the likelihood that traumatic events also occurred during childhood or in the years pre-service, we can assume that veterans are at a higher risk of trauma exposure than the general population. 

This study by Kachadourian et al. on mindfulness as a tool for trauma recovery reported the following:

“…a higher number of traumatic life events was associated with a reduced ability to pay attention to the present moment in U.S. military veterans. Reduced ability to pay attention to the present moment, in turn, was associated with higher number of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, positive screen for alcohol use disorder, suicidal ideation, and lower quality of life.” 2

One of the biggest threats female veterans experience regarding trauma is sexual harassment and sexual assault. In 2018, the Department of Defense reported that 6.2% of active-duty women in the U.S. experienced sexual assault in the previous year. And the rates are increased from 2016, when 4.3% of active-duty women experienced sexual assault. Further, the Department of Defense estimates that in 2018 more than 20,000 men and women experienced sexual assault in a single year.1

Relevance Recovery has treatment options for you or your loved one. We utilize holistic approaches that are backed by research to achieve optimal outcomes. One example is equine therapy, proven by research studies like this one by Johnson et al., to improve coping self-strategies and emotion regulation as well as decrease PTSD symptoms.4 You can find out more about our Relevance Recovery programs here.

First Responders and Trauma

First responders, in contrast to veterans, experience trauma in an unpredictable pattern. Some level of preparation can be made when entering a warzone, but a typical day in the life of a first responder may include death, emergencies, gunfire, and injury. 

Interestingly, less research has been done on the impact of repeated and unpredictable trauma on first responders. One reasonable suggestion is that a more significant percentage of funding is provided to organizations that support military research.

Estimates on the prevalence of trauma incidents in first responders vary greatly for several reasons. For one, low levels of reporting skew the available data. Also, trauma is perceived in different ways. So counting the number of gun-related incidents requiring a response, for instance, will not equate to the number of traumatic incidents because every first responder perceives trauma differently. What is traumatic to one may not be traumatic to another. For this reason, the term “critical incident” is routinely used.

According to Civilotti et al. (2021), Jeffrey Mitchell coined the term and defined it as:

“any situation faced by emergency service personnel that causes them to experience unusually strong emotional reactions that have the potential to interfere with their ability to function, either at the scene or later.” 3

Given the number of critical incidents that first responders face every day, combined with any previous childhood or adolescent trauma, we can assume those first responders make up a significant portion of the population who require some form of treatment or intervention to manage the consequences of their trauma.

Relevance Recovery has programs designed specifically for first responders that use research-backed therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and group therapy. 

How to Get Help

While many veterans and first responder institutions offer screening and treatment for trauma exposure, the resources may be limited or unhelpful. Relevance Recovery, located in Freehold, New Jersey, is well equipped to treat people suffering from workplace trauma. Our skilled clinicians and holistic approach set us apart from other treatment programs. 

Our facilities and clinicians offer inpatient therapy, outpatient therapy, group therapy, adolescent/teen therapy, detox programs, intervention assistance, and aftercare, all with a holistic and practical approach. We also partner with the CFC Loud N Clear Foundation, which empowers its participants to keep growing by fostering a sober, supportive community. 

If you are suffering from a mental health disorder or substance abuse and addiction, know that we have a program tailored to your specific needs, like the Relevance Recovery’s First Responders program or the PTSD/Trauma program.

Sources:

  1. Department of Defense. Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military Fiscal Year. 2018. Available online: https://www.sapr.mil/sites/default/files/DoD_Annual_Report_on_Sexual_Assault_in_the_Military.pdf (accessed on 9.23.2022).
  2. Kachadourian, L. K., Harpaz-Rotem, I., Tsai, J., Southwick, S., & Pietrzak, R. H. (2021). Mindfulness as a mediator between trauma exposure and mental health outcomes: Results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. Psychological trauma : theory, research, practice and policy13(2), 223–230. https://doi.org/10.1037/tra0000995
  3. Civilotti, C., Di Fini, G., & Maran, D. A. (2021). Trauma and Coping Strategies in Police Officers: A Quantitative-Qualitative Pilot Study. International journal of environmental research and public health18(3), 982. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18030982
  4. Johnson, R. A., Albright, D. L., Marzolf, J. R., Bibbo, J. L., Yaglom, H. D., Crowder, S. M., Carlisle, G. K., Willard, A., Russell, C. L., Grindler, K., Osterlind, S., Wassman, M., & Harms, N. (2018). Effects of therapeutic horseback riding on post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans. Military Medical Research5(1), 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40779-018-0149-6

How Police Officers are Prone to Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

How Police Officers are Prone to Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Police officers have been identified as an at-risk population for developing substance abuse and mental health disorders. Limited research and low numbers of self-reported disorders make quality data on the prevalence hard to find. Still, anecdotal evidence and clinician experience suggest the numbers to be significant. 

Though data is limited, it is not hard to imagine why police officers would experience higher than average rates of substance abuse and mental health disorders. The nature of their work is exceptionally high-stress and involves exposure to death, threats of personal injury, criminal activity, and domestic disputes involving children. Police officers must stay calm, take positions of responsibility and authority, and instill safety in situations that most consider traumatic. This link between police officers and addiction stems from this internalized and consistent stress.

At Relevance Recovery, we specialize in providing treatment for first responders. Our individualized programs in New Jersey will help you or your loved one fight the disease that is impacting your life. You can even verify your insurance benefits prior to completing the entire admissions process. Contact us today to get started. 

The Relationship Between Police Officers, Addiction, Stress, and Trauma

Trauma can occur in any form of a “critical incident,” which is an experience when an individual has such a strong emotional response that they cannot cope at the scene or later (Civilotti et al. 2021). For police officers, critical incidents occur in the field when responding to emergencies like those described above, by proxy in cases where an empathetic response to a civilian’s suffering affects their own ability to cope, and at home when family members of police officers are engaged in the effects of trauma on their home life. Police officers will perceive some experiences as critical incidents that surpass their coping threshold while others do not. That variability makes trauma related to critical incidents so difficult to recognize and treat.3

But stress and trauma come from more than their exposure to critical incidents. Police culture and organizational demand add additional pressure. Police culture refers to the commonality among police cohorts of complicated promotion structures, involuntary work commitments, limited funding, scarce resources, and bullying in the workplace.2

We cannot allow society to make the individual responsible for their struggles when entire systems are accountable for the gap in mental health among first responders—recognizing that social structures contribute to incidences of substance abuse and mental health crises is the first step in reducing stigma and improving outcomes.

How Stress and Trauma Lead to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

Police officers internalize trauma differently depending on personal background, level of support, and childhood experiences. A domestic dispute may be particularly triggering for an officer who experienced childhood abuse, whereas a deadly car crash involving a child may be triggering for a father of four.  

By understanding that police officers experience stress and trauma to varying degrees, we can assume there is an equal variance among their coping strategies. One study suggests that the best outcomes for police officers can be found in rehab and treatment programs that address the individual officer’s attachment style. 

According to Civilotti et. al (2021),  

“…attachment is considered an interpersonal motivational system that leads people to seek closeness and protection in situations of vulnerability.”

A person’s relational attachment to others can be subcategorized as him being securely attached or insecurely attached and then further into subcategories like anxious attachment. Each type of attachment comes with its own set of challenges. Insecurely attached individuals are at greater risk for substance abuse and mental health disorders as they lack the necessary coping strategies in the face of trauma.

When existing coping strategies fail, either once or often, our bodies explore new ways to normalize feelings and achieve homeostasis. Exposure to drugs and alcohol can activate pleasure centers in the brain, making it feel like coping is effective. The use of those substances, however, leaves some individuals prone to addiction and mental health disorders. Some people are more prone to experiencing addiction and mental health disorders. Much scientific research is being done to explain better why some individuals experience addiction and mental health disorders more quickly or with greater intensity. While we do not know the specific neural pathways that lead to the disease after exposure to stressors, we know that the disorders can affect any person of any race, gender, or age. 

How Can Relevance Recovery Help?

As an observer, you can help by reducing the stigma associated with people suffering from substance abuse and mental health disorders. Acknowledging the problem and seeking help is essential in recovery, but many avoid it because of anticipated judgments. 

Some ways to reduce stigma include openly discussing your trauma and therapy experiences, discussing with someone you believe might be suffering, and speaking up if you hear someone make insensitive comments. 

Mental health screenings occur in many first responder work environments, but self-reported numbers are low. 1 If you are working as a first responder, have the courage to answer screening questions truthfully without fear of retribution. Revealing the prevalence of people who struggle with mental health disorders and substance abuse will dispel stigmas and drive more research and funding into treatment options. 

Relevance Recovery’s Addiction Treatment Program for Police Officers

Relevance Recovery offers a solution for you or your loved one. We are a full-service center in Freehold, NJ, providing treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders. Our facilities and clinicians offer inpatient therapy, outpatient therapy, group therapy, adolescent/teen therapy, detox programs, intervention assistance, and aftercare, all with a holistic and practical approach.

If you are suffering from a mental health disorder or substance abuse and are a police officer or first responder, know that we have a program tailored to your specific needs, like the Relevance Recovery’s First Responders program or the PTSD/Trauma program.

No matter where you are in your journey, we have a program to meet your needs, including inpatient, outpatient, and aftercare programs. 

Sources:

  1. Marshall, R. E., Milligan-Saville, J., Petrie, K., Bryant, R. A., Mitchell, P. B., & Harvey, S. B. (2021). Mental health screening amongst police officers: factors associated with under-reporting of symptoms. BMC psychiatry21(1), 135. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-021-03125-1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7938555/

  1. Milliard B. (2020). Utilization and Impact of Peer-Support Programs on Police Officers’ Mental Health. Frontiers in psychology11, 1686. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01686

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32765375/

  1. Civilotti, C., Di Fini, G., & Maran, D. A. (2021). Trauma and Coping Strategies in Police Officers: A Quantitative-Qualitative Pilot Study. International journal of environmental research and public health18(3), 982. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18030982

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33499414/

What Disorders Commonly Affect Teens?

What Disorders Commonly Affect Teens?

Significant changes to the body and social structure instigate a number of mental health disorders over the teen years. Based on physical, social, and emotional changes, teens are at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder or mental health disorder.

At Relevance Recovery our fully comprehensive New Jersey outpatient programs are designed to support the needs of individuals as they progress through their journey of recovery. Our holistic treatment programs are designed to address the significant mental health, physical health, and behavioral concerns prevalent in youth today. 

Speak with an admissions counselor to see how we can support you or your child on their recovery journey.

Why Are Teens Prone to Mental Health Issues?

There are several reasons that teens seem more prone to developing mental health issues. For starters, the influx of hormones in the body can initiate or increase the awareness of mental health symptoms. Additionally, teenagers experience a high amount of transition and change in a short period. This can cause an increased likelihood of developing a mental health disorder. Lastly, teens are more prone to developing mental health issues based on their actions, the risks they take, their friend group, and the environment they are in.

Youth are also at a higher risk for mental illness based on their home life. According to youth.gov low, income households increase the risk for mental health disorders. Additionally, children involved in the child where welfare and juvenile justice system have an even greater risk of developing a mental health disorder. Approximately half of all children in the welfare system have a mental health disorder, While nearly 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder.

What Disorders Commonly Affect Teens?

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, teens are at a higher risk for developing anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and suicidal thoughts and plan development. 

Another common problem for teens is that teens are at an extremely high risk of developing a substance use disorder with their mental health issues. Studies show that up to 75% of teens with a mental health disorder also develop a substance use disorder. Teens who experience a major depressive episode are twice as likely to begin using alcohol or illicit drugs than their peers who have not experienced that. One study showed that 16% of youth who had not used an illegal drug in the past year initiated use after a major depressive episode.

Signs of Mental Health Disorders in Teens

There are a number of signs for family members and loved ones to look out for when it comes to team mental health. While many team behaviors, changes, and developments can be expected, extremes and sudden changes are not.

According to youth.gov, warning signs and behaviors to be concerned about include changes in school performance, severe worry or anxiety related to school, activities, and social interactions, frequent physical complaints, significant changes in eating or sleeping habits, difficulty concentrating, sexually acting out, depression, mood swings, and repeated use of alcohol or drugs. 

While This is not a comprehensive list of signs and behaviors a teen may experience, it provides insight into the struggles and more common expressions of mental health and teenagers.

Teen Mental Health Treatment in New Jersey

If you were sick, you’d take medicine to get better. Likewise, when your brain is suffering from a mental illness or an addiction, it’s essential to get treatment to heal properly.

At Relevance Recovery, we offer multiple authentic pathways to substance abuse relapse prevention and work to ensure long-term affordable care for all clients. Our New Jersey addiction treatment programs teach clients how to cope with their current condition, avoid triggers, and ask for help when needed. In addition, we offer holistic and medication-assisted therapies for long-term success. Through bio sound therapy, acupuncture, equine psychotherapy, massage therapy, fitness and meditation, and peer support and life skills, our medical professionals can create robust treatment programs for each client.

You are relevant. At Relevance Recovery, we are here to help you start your journey to substance-abuse recovery in New Jersey today.