Resources for First Responders


Mothers Against Drunk Driving 24-Hour Victim Help Line 877.MADD.HELP

Sometimes it’s hard to separate what you see in your work from your personal life. It’s hard not to judge a situation, or stop bringing it back home with you. The hardest cases are the ones that you can relate to, when it hits close to home. Being a parent, sometimes I see things and think about what it would be like if it was my own child. We harden our mindsets and realize that this isn’t something that everybody can do, somebody has to though, but sometimes it does get to us. While physical scars can heal, it’s the emotional ones that end up hurting us the most. Ultimately what helps me deal with it is just talking. If you can, talk to your friends, family, coworkers, or even just your dog. Talk to somebody, because keeping it bottled up inside is the worst thing you can do.

Stacey has been in Fire Services for almost 25 years. He is an Airport Master Firefighter and EMT.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving works closely with many emergency response professionals, such as law enforcement officers, social workers, crime victim advocates, funeral home directors, emergency medical services and other allied professionals to provide assistance to victims of drunk and drugged driving crashes. Just as MADD is impacted by the heartache of drunk and drugged driving, each of these allied professionals are forced to face trauma every day. At times, providing services to crime victims can have an effect both professionaly and personally. MADD created this brochure to help you as you assist those experiencing trauma. We also want to provide support and insight into what you as a service professional may have experienced or witnessed in your crucial role that may be affecting you now. ACKNOWLEDGING YOUR WORK MADD would like to acknowledge the determination and dedication that you provide to all of those you serve who are in crisis. Whether in a role of a professional preventing crime from occurring, or as a responder providing services to someone who is experiencing trauma, thank you for your dedicated service to the safety and welfare of our communities across the nation. MADD appreciates the time you spend away from your loved ones to protect and care for all of us.

How You Can Help Those Experiencing Trauma Someone who has experienced trauma or is currently experiencing trauma often has their sense of control taken away from them. They may be experiencing the most stress and loss that they have ever experienced in their lives. If you are providing services to someone who has experienced trauma, here are several tips that may help you in your role: • Know that everybody experiences grief and loss differently. There is no “standard” emotional response, but it is common to see a cataclysm of emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, frustration, fatigue, numbness and sadness. These emotions can increase and decrease dramatically in a short period of time. • Provide supportive listening to those who need to talk about what happened to them. • If possible, provide information or answer questions (within your service guidelines) and be available to answer additional questions later as well. Be honest and direct at all times. • Have a list of helpful referrals at your fingertips including: • Crime Victim Compensation – State financial assistance program that helps support victims of violent crimes: • 211 [Emergency Resource Referral Line] – Resource and referral line for those who need almost any type of financial, emotional and mental referral: dial 211 • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - Information and assistance line for those who may be having suicidal thoughts or knows someone who does: 1-800-662-4357 • National Child Traumatic Stress Network – Information and education for parents/caregivers and professionals about how to assist children experiencing traumatic stress: • Mental Health Treatment Facility Locator – National referral line to find mental health treatment and support: 1-800-789-2647 • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – Many agencies have an EAP available through their Human Resource Department. The EAP provides free and anonymous counseling services to employees.

Vicarious/Secondary Trauma

As people who assist those who have suffered a traumatic event, trauma service professionals can be highly impacted by providing such services. A serious impact of serving those in crisis is called vicarious trauma, or secondary trauma. Vicarious trauma is a reaction that occurs as a result of witnessing or learning about traumatic events that have happened to others. It can be a slow, gradual process and emergency responders can be especially vulnerable because they are exposed to the distress and trauma of others on a regular basis.

You may not even be aware that you are suffering from vicarious trauma because the exposure to trauma can become “normal’ to you in your professional role.

Trauma can become

“normal” to first responders, but there’s help.

Vicarious trauma can cause job performance to decrease and mistakes to increase, a drop in morale, a decline in general health, mood changes, and personal relationships to be impacted. It’s important to recognize if you are experiencing the impact of vicarious trauma, because there is help. Signs of experiencing vicarious or secondary trauma include: • Having flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive thoughts about traumatic events, or avoidance of people or places that bring back those thoughts or memories • Appetite changes • Missing work or dreading going to work • Hypervigilance (being “jumpy, or having an exaggerated startle response) • Experiencing anxiety, oversensitivity, emotional unpredictability, sadness and/or depression, or emotional numbness • Withdrawal from friends and family, loneliness, distrust, projection of blame and rage, increased self-doubt, or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

If you see these signs or think you may be experiencing vicarious trauma consider talking with a counselor. They may be able to help identify ways to cope with what you are experiencing. It’s also a good idea to engage in some behaviors that may prevent or decrease the impact of vicarious trauma: • Separate yourself from the trauma you witness. When you help someone, try not to take on the burden of what they are feeling by putting yourself in their position within your own mind. Relating too closely to someone experiencing trauma may cause impact to you as well. If you find yourself thinking about them after you get off of work, try to distract yourself by focusing on doing something you enjoy. • Take a break. Take breaks throughout the day to focus on things that aren’t related to your work. Try to focus on things that you enjoy, such as read a book for few minutes, use humor where appropriate, or debrief with a confidant. Even having a small conversation with a coworker without talking about work can be helpful for a mental break. with people you are serving it may give them the idea that they can reach you in your personal life. If you are also relating to them in your personal life, you aren’t giving yourself a real break from work. • Take care of yourself. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep is important for physical health, but also for mental health. Staying physically healthy helps your mind produce the important chemicals needed to cope with stress. • Monitor yourself. If you notice that you are starting to experience signs of various traumas, reach out and talk with a supervisor, counselor or friend, and get support. Maintain good professional boundaries. • Maintain good professional boundaries. When you cross professional boundaries

[Vicarious Trauma . Wendt Center, Web. 2016.]

Working with Victims of Substance Impaired Driving

MADD provides free victim services to victims impacted by drunk and drugged driving crashes and underage drinking injuries or deaths. We help as long as victims and survivors need us. We can be there at the beginning of crash and for years after the criminal case. In some ways, we may be one of the only organizations for victims of substance impaired driving that isn’t limited by a timeline. MADD provides information and education about victim’s rights and the criminal justice process, help with finding financial or emotional resources, and advocacy to speak out for them when they want us to. MADD advocates are also usually able to spend a greater amount of time providing services to victims, as many officers and victim witness coordinators have large caseloads. Many victims and survivors have called MADD’s Victims Services a “lifeline” to people who care. Unfortunately many victims and survivors don’t know that MADD provides these services, which is why it’s so important to make them aware. If you, in your professional role, come in contact with a victim of drunk or drugged driving, or underage drinking, please consider providing them with the number to our 24-Hour Victim Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP ( 1-877-623-3435 ). They can reach us any time, day or night to talk with a MADD Victim Advocate.

Thank you once again for the diligent and important work that you do as you provide services to those who have experienced a traumatic event. MADD supports you in your role as an emergency responder, as you work with victims of substance impaired driving crashes as well as people experiencing other types of trauma.

Thank you!

24-Hour Victim Help Line 877.MADD.HELP

MADD does not discriminate against individuals or groups, either in employment or in the delivery of services or benefits, on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, income, marital status, sexual orientation, medical condition, disability or veteran status. If you believe your civil rights have been violated please reach out to the U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Civil Rights ( or US Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Civil Rights Division, Washington, DC 20530, or phone (202) 514-4609 Telephone Device for the Deaf (TTY) (202) 514-0716).

©2018 Mothers Against Drunk Driving Rev. 3/23

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