SAN ANGELO, Texas — An estimated 30% of first responders develop behavioral health conditions, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compared to 20% of the general population, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Mental health providers report cases of anxiety and burnout have increased among first responders throughout the Lone Star State, including instances in West Texas as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued for more than a year.
The American Red Cross said its responsibility as a mental health provider is to provide comfort, care, compassion, coping strategies with citizens and first responders going through disasters.
"Doing this day in and day out leads to a lot of burnout and stress and anxiety. As our first responders' request, we're available to provide them with that same sort of services as well," Tanna Lazaroff, American Red Cross North Texas region disaster lead, said.
Lazaroff said it is essential to be a mental health resource, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
"We will be there as well for them if they need that mental support or just somebody to talk to," Lazaroff said.
Tina Burks, San Angelo Police Department public information officer, said even though the well of resiliency may occasionally run dry for the department's officers, she is happy to know they are appreciated.
"It makes us feel great that people do support us and they are watching our backs, and they offer to assist us whenever we need it because this job can sometimes be overwhelming," Burks said.
In addition to the services offered by the American Red Cross, the SAPD offers free counseling for all who serve in its department.
If you or anyone you know needs mental health resources, you can contact the MHMR Services for the Concho Valley, who will then be able to guide you in the right direction.