ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The men and women who rush to help us when there's an accident, or fire, or shooting are more at risk themselves to have suicidal thoughts because of the things they see on the job.

Washington University researchers interviewed 900 first responders in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, and Kentucky, and they called the results alarming.

Paramedics and emergency medical technicians are seven times as likely as the general public to have thought about suicide in just the past year.

It starts with what is called "compassion fatigue" and it is something departments and first responders are more aware of than in years past.

Symptoms of compassion fatigue can look different for different people but some common ones are becoming withdrawn, loss of appetite, becoming more short-tempered, and calling in sick.

Left untreated compassion fatigue can lead to more serious problems like substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

St. Charles County Ambulance is like other departments that offer a variety of programs to help. Those programs include an employee assistance program that is available at any time. There are also critical incident stress debriefings which gets everyone involved in a challenging call together including dispatchers, police, paramedics, and hospital personnel.

St. Charles County is about to launch a peer support program where some staff members have specialized training to help their co-workers.

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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