Our gratitude can increase a first responder’s connection and support

Gratitude is good for us – but did you know it can also make us feel more connected to those around us?

Whether we’re showing our gratitude to someone, or being thanked, the act of gratitude makes us feel closer to each other. It helps to make our relationships stronger and it deepens our connection. 

This sense of connection is part of what brings happiness and a sense of wellbeing into our lives.  

“Connectedness is an important pillar of psychological wellbeing, because a sense of inclusion is very important to our wellbeing,” says Fortem psychologist Sharene Borsi.

When we feel connected with others, we also feel supported. This is vital for first responders, who spend so much time helping others; it’s important that they feel backed up by their families, friends and community members. 

“Research tells us that before, during and after traumatic events, the level of social support available to first responders can predict the level of their psychological distress, and the extent of any psychological injury experienced,”  Sharene says.

“By the nature of their work, first responders play a central role in managing emergencies. Their work is often physically and emotionally demanding and puts them in situations that most of us prefer to avoid. The rewards of such work can be great, but the cost to first responders can be high.” 

More than half of all emergency responders are deeply impacted by traumas they face in the course of their duties: 

  • These women and men have higher rates of psychological distress, higher rates of diagnosis of mental health conditions, and higher rates of suicidal thinking and planning than the general adult population.  
  • First responders are more than twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and to experience high psychological distress.  
  • The devastating Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic and recent flooding compounds people’s trauma exposure. 

“Talking to others, feeling heard and having their experiences acknowledged can be very healing and helps to minimise the negative impact of traumas,” Sharene says.

While saying thank you is a small act, it can make a big difference to those who need a little acknowledgement for taking on these major challenges. 

Our gratitude can help first responders to feel a sense of connection, and lets them know that we support them. 

Thank a First Responder Day on June 9 is an opportunity to publicly acknowledge and express our gratitude for the work of first responders. Let’s create a loud voice of gratitude for those who do so much for us. For ideas and tools that will help you and your community get involved visit www.firstresponderday.com.au.

Thank a First Responder Day is an initiative of not-for-profit agency Fortem Australia and first responder agencies across Australia.

Mental health resources for first responders and their families can be found in the Fortem Resource Library.

Fortem activities, events and community engagements are designed to support the mental fitness of our first responder families. Read more about Our Approach.
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