Did you know firefighters and paramedics experience PTSD and substance use disorders at twice the rate of the general population?
In the United States, there are over 1 million firefighters, of whom approximately 750,000 are volunteers. The United States is also home to millions of other first responders, like police officers and EMS. A large majority of first responders are volunteers, and they are typically among the first people to arrive and assist at the scene of an emergency.
In one day, first responders may witness more trauma, loss, death and destruction than the average citizen will see in a lifetime. Over time, constant exposure to this kind of stress takes a toll on first responders mentally and physically. In fact, nearly a third of police officers suffer from stress-based physical health problems, and 40% exhibit sleep disorders. Approximately 10–37% of first responders show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety, sleep issues, avoidance of traumatic triggers, emotional numbness and problems with alcohol, drugs or food.
In 2015, a survey of more than 4,000 first responders found that 6.6% had attempted suicide. That is more than 10 times the rate of the general population. As those numbers increase, mental healthcare professionals are looking for more outlets to provide first responders with emotional wellness and mental-resiliency tools; trauma-sensitive yoga is one of those outlets.
Trauma-based yoga programs that are designed to keep students safe from nervous system triggers can help first responders use movement and breath to increase job performance, while also alleviating physical and mental effects of work-related stress.
Advanced Recovery Systems, IAFF, Marlboro, MD
Philadelphia Firefighters, Philadelphia, PA
“Today was my first day in the program —I traveled a long, tiresome way the day before and have barely unpacked my suitcase. I really didn’t want to try yoga, but I came anyway. I’m feeling relaxed. I’m glad I came and I’m ready to try everything the program has to offer. I have HOPE.”
-Student from Advanced Recovery Systems, IAFF Maryland