We salute our EMTs; let's take care of them, too

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Firefighters and EMTs load a victim onto an ambulance during their response to a head-on collision on Old Rochester Road on Wednesday There were some serious injuries in the crash, but thankfully, no one died. (Shawn St.Hilaire photo)

This week's horrific head-on crash on Old Rochester Road in Somersworth provided a stark reminder of the trauma-filled life of our Emergency Medical Providers.

These people put their physical and mental health on the line every time they suit up, get behind the wheel of an ambulance or firetruck and head to a fire, accident scene or medical event.

While few have ever questioned the sacrifices they make as they try to save lives on a daily basis, it is only recently that the cumulative effect of seeing unspeakable tragedy has been regarded as a serious mental health issue that deserves close inspection.

Just like our military men and women can suffer from various forms of PTSD due to the images of war they see on a daily basis, first responders our subject to much the same trauma, from fatal car crashes, shootings and other serious accidents.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. It is said that the mental health of one individual might be affected negatively by a single incident while in others it could be cumulative, not exhibiting symptoms for many months, or even years.

But during National EMS week which ends today, you should know there are bills in the works at the Statehouse in Concord that would provide some help for first responders affected by PTSD.

One would impanel a group of police, firefighters and EMT to study the prevalence.

Another would allow the inclusion of worker's compensation for those in the field suffering from PTSD.

This might cause an uptick in worker's compensation costs, but if the goal is to fairly treat those who put not only their physical but mental health at risk every day to bring emergency medical services to us when we need them most, it is a price we should be proud to pay.

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