SIDNEY – Area first responders received mental health training from local psychologist Dr. Jacqueline Allen, who has practiced in a variety of settings and operates a private practice at 110 E. Poplar St., Suite 7, Sidney.
The presentation focused on three mental health issues: Depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). First responders may encounter these issues in themselves or their co-workers or family or in members of the public they see when fulfilling their duties.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), more than 15 million Americans suffer from depression and anxiety. First responders have a high rate of diagnosed depression and anxiety.
Allen said clinical depression is more than feeling sad. That depressed mood or loss of interest lasts more than two weeks and can be accompanied by weight or sleep change, difficulties with concentration, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, or recurrent thoughts of death.
Participants viewed a video in which an officer shared issues he dealt with and how important it is to take time for yourself and to take care of yourself.
“PTSD is essentially really bad anxiety. Anxiety has levels. First, there’s fear. Then there’s Generalized Anxiety, and these people worry about everything. That’s a rough one. With this you have difficulty concentrating because you constantly worry about everything. The most extreme point is PTSD,” said Allen.
Allen has specialized training in PTSD.
PTSD symptoms include exposure to an event where you feel threatened, thoughts that continually intrude, avoidance of triggers, mood change, hyper awareness, and not a reaction to drug or alcohol abuse. PTSD is a natural response to extreme trauma.
Allen said protection from depression, anxiety and PTSD can include exercise, genetics, social structure, IQ, good relationships and access to mental health services.
“There’s a stigma to seeking mental health care. If you have cancer or a broken leg or something, you get a lot of sympathy. People want to help you or to know how you’re doing. With depression people say you’re crazy or tell you to just get over it and cheer up. We need to try to change that response,” said Allen.
Chief William Balling had discussed such issues with Allen and said he felt that it is important information for the first responders in the area to have for their dealings with the public and for themselves and their families and co-workers.
Balling, at the beginning of the session, said, “One of the things we want to make sure of is, when you do retire, when you do leave here, everything is great. We want you to have a happy retirement. If there is something we can do for you, we want to do it.”
The writer is a regular contributer to the Sidney Daily News.