COVID-19 and First Responder PTSD

Source: Eldar Nurkovic/123RF

Nearly 20 years after 9/11, thousands of first responders are still suffering from health effects from the attacks, many dying of cancers borne of Ground Zero, and most, if not all, still suffering from post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD).

The men and women working in hospitals, ambulances, public safety, and treating COVID-19 patients fear for their own health.

CNN reports that On CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Dr. Yuval Neria — the director of trauma and PTSD at New York State Psychiatric Institute — warned of a possible “second pandemic,” one concerning mental health.

After 9/11, roughly one to five percent of New Yorkers developed PSTD, according to Neria.

In one paper, it was written that studies have found that in 2017 alone, at least 103 firefighters or EMS workers across the United States died by suicide. They also reported that more police officers die by suicide than in the line of duty every year.

The New York Post reports that an off-duty Fire Department EMS lieutenant was found dead of an apparent suicide this week in his Nyack home, and his union is blaming his death on the stress that first-responders have endured since the coronavirus pandemic.

When Lt. Matthew Keene did not show up for his shift at EMS Station 17 in the Bronx on Friday, co-workers and friends went to check on him at his home, where he lived alone.

In April, rookie EMT John Mondello, 23, and less than three months on the job, shot himself at the peak of the pandemic as he faced the horrors of sick and dying patients.

Two days after Mondello’s death, Dr. Lorna Breen, an emergency room director at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, killed herself. She had served on the front lines of the coronavirus battle, caught the contagion and returned to work, but was told it was too soon and sent home, her family said.

Two NYPD officers have killed themselves this year.

Amy Fantauzzi, 39, a Manhattan cop distraught over relationship problems, fatally shot herself in the head, last month.

NYPD Detective Paul Federico, 53, was found hanging in his mother’s Queens home in Middle Village in mid-February.

According to the Complex PTSD Foundation (CPTSD), there are many ways the public can help, such as:

Provide Support. Allow first responders to talk about what they have seen in their work within the confines of the HIIPA law. Offer these brave men and women follow-up treatment and support from mental health professionals and the public alike to shore up their depleted supply of encouragement.

Shout out their worth. Many communities have begun ringing bells, honking horns, and otherwise acknowledging the bravery and courage of first responders during the COVID 19 pandemic. The public must keep telling our brave men and women on the front lines of caring for our health and welfare how valuable they are to us and how much we appreciate and love them.

The Foundation adds, “a kind word may be the catalyst to help a police officer not die by suicide or assist a nurse in having a better attitude at home saving her marriage.”