To better understand how first responders are affected by their professions, University of Phoenix commissioned a 2017 survey on first responder mental health, surveying 2,000 U.S. adults who are employed as firefighters, police officers, EMT/paramedics and nurses. The survey not only revealed that a high percentage of first responders are dealing with traumatic events in their line of work, but many are also experiencing negative mental health symptoms.  

The findings show that while approximately half of first responders have participated in pre-exposure mental health training, the majority report that mental health services are rarely used at their organization. Data show there are resources available to first responders, but stigmas associated with mental health may be keeping them from getting the help they need.

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The majority of first responders have experienced symptoms related to mental health issues.


It’s not surprising that the vast majority of first responders reported these symptoms, considering 84 percent of respondents have experienced a traumatic event on the job. Additionally, a third (34 percent) of first responders have received a formal mental health disorder diagnosis, like depression or PTSD.

For those that say they have been diagnosed with depression, nearly half cited incidents at work as a contributing cause.


The majority of first responders have mental health services available to them, but aren’t using them to their full potential.


The survey revealed that there are stigmas associated with seeking mental health help on the job. Of those that say there are negative repercussions for seeking mental help at work, the majority feel their supervisor will treat them differently. Other concerns are co-workers perceiving them as “weak” or resulting in them being passed over for promotions.


Additional Findings

The majority of first responders have been exposed to trauma

  • 69% have experienced lack of sleep
  • 46% have experienced anxiety
  • 27% of first responders have been formally diagnosed with depression

Communicating about mental health issues

  • 61% of respondents feel comfortable talking to their supervisor about mental health concerns
  • 42% disagree that their supervisor openly discusses the importance of addressing mental health concerns
  • 50% of first responders believe their supervisor will treat them differently if they seek mental health help


This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix between Feb. 2 - 21, 2017 among 2,004 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, who are employed as either a firefighter, police officer, EMT/paramedic, lifeguard or nurse. Figures were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the first responder population. For complete survey methodology, please contact the University of Phoenix External Affairs team.