Being a First Responder May Affect Your Mental Health

cartoon of first responder looking like a time bomb

“What I found was, the way it works for me is I always kept it bottled up inside of me. I always just kept it inside… I prided myself on being able to make the bad runs and then come back and sit down and eat and it not even effect me… I used to thing that PTSD was complete and utter bullshit… No, when you’re standing on the other side of the fence from the field and you see it from the opposite side. No. It’s real and it affects you more than you’ll ever know.      –  Arkansas First Responder 



As the wife of a firefighter/paramedic, I am well aware of the stresses of the job and how they can affect one’s emotional, mental, physical, and relational health. Through funds provided by UAMS, and in collaboration with various individuals throughout the Little Rock Fire Department (LRFD) over the past 3 years, I am happy to initiate a mental health and wellness education program to all of LRFD!


But first, a little background information:

  • First responders respond to more than 50 million emergency calls in the U.S. every year. While some of you may never respond to sentinel events like 9/11, the nature, frequency, and intensity of duty-related traumatic exposures can put you at risk of developing mental health problems, such as PTSD.
  • An estimated 18-37% of first responders meet criteria for PTSD. Also, risk for suicide is 25 times greater than that of the general populations; see current statistics at Firefighters Behavioral Health Alliance at
  • This rate is equivalent to that found among Arkansas First Responders! Read results (pdf) from a study previously conducted in the state. 
Most first responders do not report or seek help for mental health problems.
  • Less than 40% of general populations who experience problems seek professional help. This percentage is even less for first responders due to the stigma associated with having a mental health problem.
  • There is also a shared “culture” of strength and self-reliance that inhibits first responders from seeking help.
  • This needs to change if we are ever going to effectively address these problems!

The first step to better health is awareness.



One’s own mental health is, by nature, a personal and private topic of conversation. Our goal is to provide education to better equip you to understand mental health as it pertains to the fire service. We respect your privacy and uphold equal standards and limitations to that have mental health providers. All personal information and experiences shared with us throughout the course of the study will remain confidential. If we learn during the study that abuse has occurred or that you may hurt yourself or someone else, we are required by law to report it.


More Information About this Program

Sara Jones, Ph.D., APRN, PMHNP-BC

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, College of Nursing Office:


Samantha Seale, MS, Project Manager

Office: 501-320-7602

Visit our Facebook page for more updates!

Online Resources Testimonials

If you are actively feeling suicidal, please call 911 or the
Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255

For more resources, please visit “Online Resources.”

View mental health services currently available in central Arkansas.

Please note: The providers listed on our referral form are individual providers that are not contracted or affiliated with this program, nor the department. Hence, we cannot guarantee they will be available for crisis intervention or immediate services, nor are they able to provide care free of cost. Please check back for updates of providers in your region.