When a natural or man-made disaster strikes, emergency responders rush to the scene. Their work is grueling and dangerous, and can be heart-breaking. Their physical and emotional energy is sapped, and living and working conditions can be uncomfortable and even unsafe.
Emergency responders can become what are called “wounded healers,” prone to health-related problems and a condition called secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD), with symptoms similar to depression. To help them keep their own care in mind during a crisis, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health led the development a first-of-its-kind interactive mobile app called the Responder Self Care App.
The app was created under a CDC Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Centers (PERL) grant, with Dr. Debra Olson, School of Public Health professor, as principle investigator and in collaboration with the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development.
For University of Minnesota emergency responders, the app, much like their “go bag,” is mandatory. It provides checklists to help them pack for deployment, take care of daily needs, maintain important relationships, and reflect on experiences, among other things. Customizable reminders ensure that critical tasks are not forgotten and tips explain why certain aspects of self-care are vital.