First Responders

and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Irritability. Bad dreams. Depression. No emotions at all. On edge. Outbursts. Trouble sleeping. Flashbacks. Anxiety. Self-destructive behavior. If you notice any of the above symptoms sounding all too familiar, either for your spouse or yourself, you may be facing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Have you ever gone to a loud, energetic public place or a social engagement and you or your spouse suddenly gets tense, drinks in excess to relieve anxiety, or just wants to leave as soon as you arrive?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can present itself in many different ways depending on the person. The person affected by PTSD may not be able to or be ready to recognize the symptoms within themselves. As a spouse, some things you may notice in your loved on are:

  • Irritability prior to a social event
  • Restlessness in crowds or loud places
  • An inability to focus
  • Constantly scanning areas
  • A sudden, drastic change in mood that may seem like it came out of nowhere
  • Obsession over details of packing, planning, preparing for a trip, etc.
  • Intentionally secluding themselves
  • Drinking more than usual
  • Withdrawing from usual activities
  • Sleeping all the time
  • Short fused
  • Unwanted persistent memories
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Sense of claustrophobia in public places
  • Loss of appetite

Reaching Out for Help

There will be times in life when we can’t do it alone. This may be one of those times. Now is not the time to shy away from asking for help. Here are some good resources that may be able to assist you in working through the trials PTSD brings.

Crisis Text Line

Free, 24/7 support

Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via a medium people already use and trust: text. Here’s how it works:  All you have to do is send a text, anytime, about any type of crisis and you’ll be connected with a live trained Crisis Counselor. 

  • USA: Text HOME to 741741

Other Countries:

  • Canada: Text HOME to 686868 
  • United Kingdom:Text HOME to 85258 Shout is an affiliate of Crisis Text Line in the UK that provides free, confidential support, 24/7 via text. Shout is available in the UK, including England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
  • Other: Crisis Text Line is working on expanding the countries they serve, for more on their International Expansion Click Here

Share the Load

National Volunteer Fire council

Taking care of your mental health is as important as managing your physical health. The NVFC’s Share the Load™ program provides access to critical resources and information to help first responders and their families manage and overcome personal and work-related problems. This includes the free, confidential Fire/EMS Helpline.

Everyone Goes Home

by the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation

Do you want to learn more about how to give support to fellow firefighters?  In March 2004, a Firefighter Life Safety Summit was held to address the need for change within the fire service. At this summit, the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives were created and a program was born to ensure that Everyone Goes Home.

Our goal is to help the U.S. Fire Administration achieve its objective of reducing the number of preventable firefighter fatalities.

Learn more at

What You Can Do as a Spouse

PTSD can take a toll on even the healthiest of marriages. 

Every day can be a challenge to get through for both spouses. As a spouse of someone affected by PTSD there are ways you can help your first responder feel more comfortable.

Let them go. If they are feeling uncomfortable at an event, as them if they would like to leave. If they choose to leave, let them go. Don’t force them to stay. This usually exacerbates the tension they are already feeling.

Right place, right time. Don’t bring up big stuff or address issues with your spouse in public, during times of great stress for them, or in unfamiliar surroundings.

Give them time. Give your spouse the space and time needed to heal privately, but be close by for when they are ready to talk or need support. Allow them to feel their emotions when they are ready. There is no set process or timeline a person with PTSD follows.

Educate. If you do want to talk to them in a safe, familiar place, be sure to research and read as much as you are able prior to the discussion. Be prepared. There are many things you might say that seem normal to us and would not affect someone with PTSD, but it may set off a trigger in those who are struggling with it.

Get professional help. We aren’t all capable of being everything to everyone. This is nothing personal. PTSD may be better addressed with your spouse by a professional.