Behavioral Health and Co-Occurring Disorders

What are Co-Occurring Disorders?

Behavioral health disorders, such as addiction and depression, are rarely mutually exclusive. They often have a direct relationship with one another, making them co-occurring issues. For fire fighters and paramedics, this can manifest in many different ways, including a combination of a substance use disorder and mental health struggles. For instance, a fire fighter or paramedic who is dealing with depression may use alcohol to self-medicate. This combination can result in destructive behavior, disruptions on the job and trouble with family and friends.

If you or someone you love is struggling with co-occurring behavioral health issues, you’re not alone. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that roughly 7.9 million adults in the United States dealt with co-occurring behavioral and substance abuse issues in 2014.

Many who misuse alcohol or abuse drugs do so to cope with an underlying behavioral health issue. Conversely, many people develop mental health disorders as a result of substance abuse. By understanding that these two disorders are intimately intertwined, they can be more effectively treated. The IAFF Center of Excellence is designed specifically for IAFF members who need help overcoming substance abuse and behavioral health issues simultaneously. Customized programs and evidence-based treatment can help provide long-term recovery so you can continue to perform your job while maintaining all-around health.

“We are great at taking care of the public, but we are not so great at taking care of ourselves.” FRANK LETO, FDNY COUNSELING UNIT

Common Co-Occurring Disorders for Fire Fighters and Paramedics

  • Substance Use Disorder
  • Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Major Depressive Disorder

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders in Fire Fighters

Because struggles with addiction are rarely isolated, it’s important to understand the mental and behavioral roots of substance use disorder. Instead of masking or healing a symptom, treating co-occurring issues simultaneously often paves the road for more effective and long-term healing. If addiction is treated without uncovering the underlying emotional, behavioral and environmental factors, you will be more susceptible to setbacks.

The IAFF Center of Excellence focuses on behavioral health issues that uniquely affect fire fighters and paramedics. These professionals are susceptible to mental health and co-occurring issues because of the sensitive and difficult nature of their important work. By honoring and acknowledging the mind’s powerful impact on the body, along with the significance of emotional health, IAFF members can work to manage and heal co-occurring issues for a sustained career and healthier life.

Co-occurring disorders treatment may consist of several steps, including:

  •  Assessment
  • Clinically managed detox
  • Inpatient
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Intensive outpatient
  • Aftercare

Working closely alongside the medical and clinical staff, clients at the IAFF Center of Excellence learn how to manage co-occurring issues by recognizing symptoms and triggers of issues such as PTSD, depression, anxiety and more.

If you or an IAFF member you know is struggling with addiction along with a potential co-occurring mental or behavioral health issue, help is as close as a phone call. The IAFF Center of Excellence is available to offer guidance and help formulate a treatment plan. Call  to learn more about unique rehabilitation programs tailored specifically to IAFF members.

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