Our first line of duty – to you, the first responder who spent your career helping people and serving communities: Gratitude. Thank you. Thank you for running toward the chaos, not away from it. Your work has not gone unnoticed. Your sacrifices have not been ignored. It takes a special individual to do the work of a hero and we want you to know that you are appreciated, valued, and that no matter how you are processing retirement from such a demanding role as someone working toward the greater good – you are not alone.
Retirement can be something we look forward to as humans, however, it can also be an unwelcomed transition. A dramatic shift from what is the personal and professional identity of serving and protecting others, into a “normal” life isn’t easy. It comes with its own set of challenges, beginning with its impact on mental health. Evolving from uniform and badge which are symbols of influence and authority, to “regular street clothes” may affect self-image and cause one to question their sense of identity. How we present ourselves to others, the key signifiers of who we are, changing from career professional to civilian/retiree may adversely impact mental health. Going from a highly structured, challenging environment peppered with protocols, policies and procedures, and shift work (which has a direct bearing on sleep patterns, physical and mental health) to simply having nothing to do can create a sense of tedium. Boredom is common in retirees and can also trigger mental health issues. This isn’t true for all retirees but developing behavioral health conditions including trouble managing anger, depression and PTSD is prevalent in an estimated 30 percent of first responders (compared with 20 percent in the general population.) As a result, isolation, self-medicating, and a host of other negative behaviors can take a retiree down a self-destructive rabbit hole that is difficult to climb out of. Rates of divorce are higher among first responders; maintaining close relationships are at stake.
You may be experiencing these symptoms. Deep down, you may feel “off” but are not ready to ask for help. Peers or family members may see it too and are asking you to seek professional assistance, which is adding to the stress. You may be feeling as though running into a burning building or knocking on the door of a domestic violence victim is a hundred times easier than asking someone to help you.
That is why The Compassion Alliance exists. We are here to support – confidentially, and for free. You have served the people in your community. You have put your life at risk every day and today forward – it is your turn to enjoy life.