Receiving gratitude improves the lives of first responders – here’s how

Gratitude feels good and practising it regularly improves our mental fitness and wellbeing.

Just as importantly, being on the receiving end of that gratitude is good for us, too.

Both these reasons are behind Thank a First Responder Day, held on 9 June. This is our opportunity to thank the career staff and volunteers who put themselves at risk in order to keep all of us safe.

First responders do extraordinary jobs, saving lives and protecting our communities. However, they are normal people who can find it difficult to cope with the challenges they face in their work.

“The ‘hero’ label is often used in describing the work of first responders, but many first responders don’t sit comfortably with this label. Many are in their jobs due to a desire to help others,” explains Fortem psychologist Sharene Borsi. .

“This sense of helping is a form of giving and can be a source of great satisfaction. It can enhance their emotional wellbeing and it can also be protective against psychological injury in difficult times.”

Because those who take on these first responder roles give so much of themselves, it’s important that we show our gratitude in return.

“Acknowledgement from others can help to validate the value of what is given,” Sharene says.

 “Validation is key to someone feeling seen, heard and witnessed. It is something we overlook but which is incredibly powerful, especially for our first responders who tend to be seen as indestructible rather than as humans.”

However, they are indeed human. We know that more than half of all emergency responders are deeply impacted by the traumas they face in the course of their duties:

  • The first responder community has higher rates of psychological distress, higher rates of diagnosis for 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. It only takes a few minutes, but thanking the first responders in our community can make a huge difference to their day to day wellbeing

“The act of expressing our gratitude helps to boost a first responder’s sense of being surrounded by goodness, when all too often their lens sees the opposite,” Sharene says.

Thank a First Responder Day is a sincere expression of gratitude not just for our own benefit, but also for the benefit for those who receive it.”

Take part in Thank a First Responder Day on 9 June, to show your gratitude for all that first responders give to our communities.

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

To make an appointment with one of Fortem’s psychologists, call 1300 33 95 94.

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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