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Mental health taking a toll among many first responders during the pandemic

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There have been many studies about the pandemic negatively affecting the mental health of people across the world.

Healthcare workers and first responders have been on the frontlines without a break since the pandemic began and may also be experiencing these same problems.

“We’re getting outside even for five minutes to feel the sunlight,” said Patty Nodine, the Director of Behavioral Health at ReGenesis. “If we’re getting some level of rest and sleep, then we can start maybe recognizing if our thoughts are taking us where we don’t need to go.”

According to a survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, adults that reported symptoms of anxiety and depression increased from 11 percent in 2019 to 42 percent in 2020.

While many people were able to work from home, healthcare workers and first responders didn’t have that option and have been working non-stop since the pandemic began.

One of the EMT captains at Community Ambulance in Minot said that their protocol steps have increased.

“There’s a lot more steps involved,” said Seth Knutson. “We’ve always got COVID in the back of our minds, so there’s a lot more PPE.”

He said that COVID-19 initially made him a little nervous.

“It kinda had me second-guessing scene safety on every call,” said Knutson. “I actually went on the first COVID 911 to come in through our dispatching.”

He said the pandemic has had an impact on his mental health.

“That constant stress, it wears on you after a while, it makes you irritable,” said Knutson. “I mean I’ve seen it around the station.”

On the other hand, Bob Roed, the Ward County sheriff, said that he can’t say for certain if the pandemic has affected his officers.

“But it’s put a lot more strain, I guess on people individually,” said Roed.

He also isn’t sure if there have been officers in his department experiencing burnout solely because of COVID because there are other factors as well.

“They’re working probably harder than they have in the past, but there’s a lot of different elements involved in that as well too,” said Roed. “I mean things have kinda changed a little bit around here.”

Roed said that if any of his officers do experience any kind of mental health problems, there are resources available.

“If an officer is having an issue, we do a contract with the Village for an EAP,” said Roed. “So I mean we have EAP available.”

If officers do choose to seek help, it is strictly confidential and even he doesn’t know.

In order to help alleviate some of your built-up anxiety, no matter who you are, experts say going outside for a walk, eating healthier and connecting with loved ones can help.

And remember, there’s no shame in asking for help because everyone struggles at some point.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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