A recent survey published by the University of Phoenix found the following:

85 % of first responders have experienced issues related to their mental health (through job related trauma)

55 % of first responders believe their supervisor will treat them differently if they bring up their mental health concerns

69 % said mental health services are seldom or never utilized

The logical conclusion gleaned from this data and the obvious causation of not seeking help? Quite simply... Stigma! It is time organizational leaders (both positional and unofficial) take action to shift the cultural reality  that  exists  in  the  first  responder  community.  We  must transform the environment from one which reinforces fear, stigma and the belief that seeking help is a "career ender" to a safe atmosphere where heroes are encouraged to seek assistance when they are not “o.k.". As a Strategic Account Manager for the Treatment Placement Specialist®, I am blessed and honored to speak with first responders across the country and stigma is the most recurring topic of discussion in terms of barriers to seeking help. The good news is this... leaders can impact that perspective in a big way! There are numerous low cost or no cost initiatives you can implement in your own organization that will move the needle forward and  positively  impact  the  cultural  wellness of  your  agency   and   individual   health   of   your personnel.

You can start by asking yourself some simple questions; Do you have an EAP? Do you have a peer support policy? Do your employees know who to go to for assistance? Are your supervisors trained to recognize signs of chronic stress or an adverse reaction to an event? What does your insurance benefit cover in terms of substance use disorders and/or mental health issues? Are you self-insured (you may have more leverage securing treatment for a member than you realize)? What are the out-of-pocket costs associated with treatment? Do you have resources (preventative measures) available that contribute to the physical/mental health of your members? Do you have a mechanism in place for spousal support? Do your employees know that assistance can be obtained confidentially? Are you aware of the state regulatory guidelines with respect to first responders and mental health treatment? Do you have a best practices model in place to assist personnel after a critical incident? Have you located, vetted and spoken with mental health professionals in your area that specialize in treating first responders? Are you disseminating information on a department-wide level that reinforces your support of personnel seeking help and are you doing that consistently? Do you have a chaplaincy program to assist with employee outreach? Are you making this information available to police recruits in the academy?

These are the questions leaders ask themselves and taking action on these challenges will enable you to build a strong legacy as a servant leader in your organization.

If you are having difficulty with any of these answers, please contact me and I will gladly assist and connect you with free resources.

"The greatest asset in any organization, is its people".

About the Author:


Bill Mazur is a 25 year law enforcement veteran with an extensive background in leadership and education. He retired from his former department in 2017 at the rank of Deputy Chief. Bill holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Stockton University and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Training and Development in the Police Graduate Studies Program from Seton Hall University. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Session #256 and served as an adjunct instructor for the Force Science Institute. Bill is also an instructor with the FBI National Academy Associates and a member of the FBINAA Officer Safety & Wellness Committee, which works with police leadership to reduce the stigma around post-traumatic stress among officers and provide solutions for agencies, individuals or family members that find themselves dealing with a personal crisis. Bill now works for Acadia Healthcare as a Strategic Account Manager with the Treatment Placement Specialists® Initiative, which provides specialized treatment guidance for public safety personnel, first responders and their families.

Email: william.mazur@acadiahealthcare.com