Posted: September 13, 2021
Reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks will be healing for some, but evoke stress, anxiety or trauma for others. Studies and surveys show many Americans are still profoundly affected by the tragedy of that day, and that our military veterans and first responders -- police, fire and other emergency workers -- are particularly vulnerable.
People who experience these conditions should not have to handle them alone, but instead should have easy access to trained professional counselors-- ideally with experience working with peers, like other first responders.
That’s why our company, Let’s Talk Interactive (LTI), a leader in customizable telehealth solutions, has been dedicated to making sure that support is available, wherever there is a need.
One example is our partnership connecting first responders with mental health and telehealth services.
The project, a collaboration of Florida universities, first responders, and community and business partners, offers behavioral health resources to firefighters and fire departments in counties across the Florida Panhandle: Bay, Calhoun, Dixie, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty, Leon, Madison, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwanee, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington.
Through the project, people can connect with licensed telehealth providers, seek support from peers, get education and resources from trusted sources, and undergo leadership development to help break the stigma and change the culture around mental health to improve the long term quality of life for first responders, their families and retirees.
In my experience working with health organizations, I’ve learned that professionals in emergency services often feel more comfortable confiding in those that ‘get it’ and understand the lifestyle and culture of this line of work.
That’s why it was critical for us to connect these everyday heroes with licensed behavioral health providers that have extensive experience working with first responders, and specialize in the treatment of conditions like stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and the effects of those conditions on relationships at home.
First responders are more likely to need that support. Some 85% of emergency services workers report experiencing symptoms tied to mental health. About 30% of emergency workers develop behavioral conditions such as PTSD and depression, and PTSD is five times more common among first responders than in the general population.
LTI is planning to expand its reach to this sector of our communities through other developing partnerships, and we hope to see even more organizations participate. However, it’s becoming clear that the need for access to mental health services goes far beyond first responders. Recent events such as the Surfside condominium collapse in Miami and the fall of Afghanistan may also evoke feelings of trauma, anxiety and PTSD across the entire population, researchers at University of California-Irvine recently reported.
Those recent events only build on the long-term stress of the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic, and what seems like an unending chain of natural disasters. LTI has responded to those needs as well, through a partnership with Big Bend Community Based Care, in Florida’s panhandle-- still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Michael in 2018.
LTI provided the program with HIPAA-compliant kiosks and portals that allowed anyplace with a cellular or Internet connection to link to mental, acute and emergency care. The kiosks were used for nearly 3,000 child therapy sessions from October 2019 to June 2020, and allowed professionals to diagnose and care for PTSD in more than 300 children.
Partnerships with groups like Big Bend can leverage LTI’s telehealth services to provide a vital outlet for those wanting to connect, talk and process what’s happening internally from the comfort and safety of home.
As America reflects on the tragic events that are still all too vivid two decades later, and the ongoing challenges in everyday life, we hope people can find solace, and encourage them to seek those connections and assistance in order to heal.
-- Arthur Cooksey, CEO of Let's Talk Interactive