September 26, 2018
If you’ve received care from the IAFF Center of Excellence or another facility, you know that seeking professional help for addiction or behavioral health struggles can improve nearly every aspect of your life. However, the benefits of your recovery can also extend to others. After treatment, there are countless ways you can give back to your community and help others who may be going through similar struggles. Whether you share your story, reach out to others or become an IAFF trained peer, giving back can be one of the most rewarding parts of recovery.
Seeking help for a behavioral health problem is one of the most difficult decisions you can make. The stigma associated with mental illness is still ingrained in many people. It can take a long time to accept that you have a problem and even longer to commit to seeking help. If you are in recovery from addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression or another mental health condition, you’ve probably experienced this reluctance first hand.
Think back: What was the moment you decided to get the help you needed? Maybe it was the story of someone who was in your position and was able to improve their life with professional care. Now that you’re in recovery, you can help other people in this same way. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences with friends, family members and acquaintances. You never know who might be struggling in silence.
Is one of your co-workers missing shifts? Has a close friend on your crew been more guarded than usual? Even when you are trying your best to hide a problem from those close to you, small things can give away an internal struggle.
If you’ve noticed the signs of substance abuse or behavioral health issues in someone you know, don’t hesitate to reach out. Ask your friend or colleague how he/she is doing and let him/her know that you care. Remember how difficult it was for you to ask for help when you were struggling? By showing him/her that you’re there, you can provide him/her with an opportunity to talk about his/her experience and possibly help provide a bridge to the care he/she needs.
As someone in recovery from an addiction or behavioral health condition, you can make a big impact on your crew by informally sharing your story and reaching out to brothers and sisters who need it. Furthermore, if you want to assist fellow fire fighters and paramedics in a more direct way, consider becoming an IAFF trained peer .
If you are in recovery and interested in becoming a trained peer, consider talking to your mental health care provider first to determine if she thinks it’s an appropriate time in your recovery. While giving back is important, maintaining your recovery is the first priority.
IAFF trained peers serve as champions for behavioral health in their local or department. Trained peers work to promote self-care practices, educate co-workers about behavioral health, dispel stigma and serve as a bridge to behavioral health programs and community resources.
As someone who has been through recovery, you have a unique opportunity to use your personal experience in this role to let others know that they aren’t alone.
Designed by fire fighters, for fire fighters, the IAFF Center of Excellence has helped IAFF members find healing and hope in the face of behavioral health difficulties. If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to a representative today. Your call is toll-free and confidential.