Why a Holistic Approach to First Responder Wellness is Essential
Date:Monday May 8, 2023
The word “holistic” can sometimes have a “hippie” connotation, but it actually refers to the understanding of something as being considered as a whole, rather than broken down into individual parts. When it comes to first responder wellness, taking a holistic approach is critical because it’s the best way to ensure an agency is meeting the unique needs of first responders and their families.
Wellness Factors for First Responders
There are many facets to being happy and healthy as a first responder:
- Maintaining Work/Life Balance
- Financial Wellness
- Healthcare (Physical and Mental)
- Treatment for Substance Abuse & Addiction
- Nutritional Support
- Therapy for PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression
- Restorative Exercise
- Getting Restorative Sleep
- Building Resilience
- First Responder Relationship support (including parenting)
- Grief Counseling
Sometimes, when a person is struggling, it can be tempting to hone in on what appears to be the problem at hand and address it head-on. As first responders, isolating a problem and managing it seems like the most efficient way to fix something. While that might be a helpful approach for something like a broken arm, when it comes to overall well-being and health, you really have to look at the person as a whole and consider how to best support them in all areas of their life.
For example, if an officer is struggling with an addiction, counseling is extremely important. However, unless you address the causes that brought the individual to that point in their life, and provide healthy alternatives to the negative patterns they’ve created, it will be difficult for them to overcome their struggle.
Wellness: It’s All Connected
There is a huge body of research supporting the positive impact of wellness tools like meditation on other health concerns like high blood pressure or anxiety. For example, if someone is struggling financially, it might make them more likely to be depressed. It’s difficult to sleep well if a person is failing to maintain good nutrition by skipping meals and chugging energy drinks. All of the wellness areas listed above impact each other, and all should be considered and emphasized in a given agency to support overall wellness for first responders.
So, review your agency’s wellness resources, services, initiatives, programs, and focus areas. Be intentional about offering more comprehensive resources so that your staff and their loved ones can have their needs met holistically. After all, as they say “no man (or health problem), is an island.”