SIOUX FALLS, SD -
First responders are trained to deal with traumatic situations each day, but the graphic images still weigh on them. When work requires high-stress from emergency situations like Saturday's crash that killed four members of the Vollmer family, effects can potentially linger longer.
“Maybe they're more on edge or they're anxious about things. Feeling kind of irritable because it can disrupt your sleep; it can disrupt your eating,” Avera outpatient therapist Ben Kohls said.
Kohls says those are perfectly normal reactions to a traumatic event. For first responders like fire fighters, police and state troopers, being thrust in the middle of tragic situation is part of the job. He says all the training in the world doesn't mean those men and women are immune from emotion.
“It's usually after the event, maybe hours later when they get off the shift. They go home and all of those emotions they had set aside during the incident start to come up,” Kohls said.
So how do you recognize them, and what can you do about them? Kohls says the best thing to do is give it some time.
“To express what's on their mind, how it's impacted them. And sometimes it's done in a really collegial way around the fire station and they talk about what happened,” Kohls said.
Other time the conversations happen behind closed doors, like with a spouse or in a therapist’s office. Kohls says all the training the world can't stop anyone from showing their humanity, even if they do a super-human occupation.
“It's not a sign of weakness. It's not a sign they're unable to do their job or something like that. It just means that job is okay to ask for help,” Kohls said.
Dozens of first responders on the local and county levels responded to Saturday's crash. Kohls says spouses and families should be aware of heightened anxiety levels, but not be alarmed. He believes if patients look for help, they can recover from traumatic instances.
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