First responders in Ohio experienced increased mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, and public health researchers are now laying out recommendations for policymakers and community members to help frontline workers fighting such illnesses across the country.
Researchers at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy Management and Leadership, published a study Monday in the Community Mental Health Journal that addresses mental health within the first responder community.
The authors looked at opportunities and challenges driving mental health policies and programs in the first responder community, with Ohio as the focal point, given the state̵7;s support for measures that benefit first responders, such as the 2021 legislation expanding workers’ compensation eligibility for first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The study says more programs and policies are needed to help first responders suffering from mental illness amid increased workload demands and cumulative stressors stemming from staffing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The researchers concluded that there is a need to adopt and implement new programs and policies that support first responder mental health at the local, state and federal levels, and that non-governmental stakeholders should play their role in supporting mental health initiatives for frontline workers.
Recommendations included establishing centralized organizations to coordinate policy and programming activities, expanding mental health research and evaluation efforts, and connecting first responders with culturally competent clinicians.