Emergency responders have intense and stressful jobs, so it is important that they have the right mindset.

South Central College Fire and Rescue Bob Eastham said this year's Firefighter Expo introduced new classes focused on mental health and PTSD. 

"Public Safety is now starting to realize that this is something that's affecting our people, and our brothers and sisters and fire and EMS and law enforcement," said Eastham. " And it's for us to take action and start to take care of ourselves."

Mankato Department of Public Safety's Deputy Director of Fire Jeff Bengtson said a 2016 CDC study, showed that suicide rates for firefighters and police officers were over two times the national average.

Studies like this have caught the attention of departments, who are taking more action.

"One thing that's being done in the state of Minnesota right now is there's a new initiative that started last year, it's called MnFire," said Bengston.

"And that's a group of firefighters effectively, that are trying to provide resources, counseling resources and referral services for firefighters, to make that easy to access, to get help if they need it." 

Substance abuse, depression and binge drinking also affect emergency responders at a higher rate than the general population. 

Mankato Department of Public Safety's Deputy Director for Police Amy Vokal said there are procedures set up to assist responders. 

"We would set up what's called a critical distress debriefing, it's not an internal function on our department," said Vokal. "We have an outside resource that comes in and helps people go through a debriefing that talks about some of those things."

Vokal said coping mechanisms for PTSD are taught in classes and shared during the pre-employment phase. 

She also pointed out that traumatic incidents look different to everyone, and that responders can also struggle with personal stressors outside of work.

Officials said departments have taken notice of the issue, and they plan to continue to provide proper resources for those who need it. 

--KEYC News 12