Even as the pandemic begins to ease, the damage it has done to police officers and firefighters still weighs heavy.
Feelings of depression and anxiety rose significantly after civil unrest last summer and it is forcing many out of their careers.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Michelle Lilly and Sergeant Shawn Curry last summer, when more than 1,300 first responders were surveyed, “47% of the sample screened positive for PTSD, which is approximately 9 to 10 times greater than the prevalence seen in the general population. Further, 29% of the sample was in the moderate to very severe range of anxiety, which is approximately 2 times greater than the prevalence seen in the general population. Finally, 37% of the sample was in the moderate to very severe range of depression. This is approximately 5 times greater than the prevalence seen in the general population.”
Former firefighter Nick Wingo was one of those people. After serving his community for 18 years, he quit following the death of George Floyd because his PTSD had gotten too severe.
“I could not sleep,” he said. “You know, anxiety is being stuck in the future and worrying about what’s going to happen and depression is being stuck in the past, so just imagine your life being stuck all the time and that’s what it was.”
The symptoms would haunt Wingo, so he co-authored the book Building Grit to help offer a release. The book goes into Wingo’s struggles and his small triumphs.
He also took time to join a support group for first responders who experience PTSD.
“It’s good to be around people who are struggling through the same things that you are,” said Wingo. “When you are in a group of people who have the same struggles, who are going through the same sleeping issues, and the anxiety and depression and all of the things that come along with PTSD, and knowing you’re not alone, it’s huge.”