With World Day Against Trafficking in Persons passing just this July 30th, it is crucial to know precisely why this occasion is so momentous. Trafficking is an issue that has been around for a long time, negatively impacting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Some individuals that help with this issue are called first responders. First responders to human trafficking are those who are trained to respond to trafficking and aid survivors. Examples of occupations considered as first responders include emergency medical services (EMS), firefighters, and police officers (First Responders). World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is a day that celebrates the efforts of first responders and honors them for their hard work. This is rightfully so, as they do so much for survivors of trafficking and society in general.
Notably, some duties that first responders are responsible for include identifying trafficking, preventing human trafficking, and providing emotional and physical support to survivors so that they can successfully talk to investigators (First Responders). Additionally, those in charge of providing medical aid, such as EMS, are in charge of treating survivors' injuries. Law enforcement officers also offer legal support to survivors in need (First Aid). When looking at their training requirements, it is clear of the many benefits that first responders give to survivors.
However, despite the many benefits that first responders bring to trafficking survivors, they are often negatively affected both physically and mentally. Sadly, about 6.8% of EMS officials, 24.7% of police officers, and 16.85% of firefighters who were first responders suffer from depression (First Responders). These workers suffer from a variety of physical and mental disorders because of their occupation. Due to the alarming amount of workers who suffer physically and mentally, it is clear that there is a flaw in the system.
Why is this happening, and in such large numbers? The International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience states that this may be because of inadequate training, unrealistic expectations set by superiors, and being unfit physically and mentally (Mitchell). Some first responders felt that the interference of a disaster led to mental illnesses during the event, with PTSD being the most common, and broken relationships after the event, divorce being the most common (Mitchell). Many also felt that the lack of safety and lack of job-related information also negatively affected their mental health (Mitchell).
Therefore, what can we do to help? The first step is to fix the leadership system involving first responders. Those who lead first responders should take the first step by planning for a disaster, training all team members, making sure to get the whole team's input, and gathering as much information as possible to reduce the impact of the disaster on the first responders (First Responders). Also, to consider the victims, the team of first responders and their leaders should assess the situation to see if those affected can take on the additional stress of the disaster relief (First Responders).
To finalize, first responders are a vital part of society, not just for those affected by disasters but also for the human community as a whole. However, many of them are exposed to situations that negatively affect their physical and mental health, which could harm victims under their care. As mentioned, first responders who experience traumatic situations have an increased risk of stress, PTSD, depression, substance use, and suicide attempts. Poor leadership, lack of team communication, and lack of planning are all factors that lead to the effects on first responders. With World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, we should honor the efforts of these first responders. They face so many challenges to cause significant changes in the society but do not get much appreciation in return. With this holiday, we should both honor their efforts and try to amend the broken system.
“First Aid Kit for Use by Law Enforcement First Responders in Addressing Human
Trafficking.” 2010. https://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/First-Aid-Kit/First_Aid_Kit_-_Booklet_eng.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2020.
“First Responders: Behavioral Health Concerns, Emergency.” May 2018.
Mitchell, J. T. “Collateral Damage in Disaster Workers.” International Journal
of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, 13(2), 121–125. 2011. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21957725/.