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First Responders and Moral Injury

As a former photojournalist, the COVID-19 pandemic, the global racial and civil unrest, and

now the violent insurrection in our nation’s Capital has reminded me of my own Post-

traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Moral Injury, anxiety and burnout, resulting from years of

documenting violence, disease, natural disasters and unfathomable human distress. Besides

concern for their physical safety, I worry for the mental health and emotional wellbeing of my

friends and colleagues as I watch them selflessly and repeatedly put themselves in harm’s

way. Their dedication to documenting the conflicting and parallel truths of our inhumanity to

one another, and the grace, love, caring and compassion that First Responders unfailingly

demonstrate in the face of unimaginable and potentially personally catastrophic

circumstances is both terrifying and admirable.

Never forget that news reporters and photojournalists are also First Responders. They are right alongside the fire fighters, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and the EMTs. And in their coverage of COVID-19, they are also on the front lines of the pandemic, documenting the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and healthcare providers as they care for the sick and dying. The general public’s knowledge and understanding is informed by those reporters and photojournalists - showing the world what is happening and it’s up to all of us to not look away.

First Responders need our collective support in their journey back to wholeness. It is crucial for all of us to develop a greater understanding of the psychological, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual trauma that they endure, and to have the hard conversations not only about PTSD and burnout, but even more critically about Moral Injury. And for those individuals and organizations in positions of leadership, we must stand together on the equally critical, but different front line. We are charged with creating, supporting and delivering innovative holistic, powerful and effective means of care to address the impact of the consistent mental, spiritual and emotional distress inflicted upon First Responders.

We must act now before our current local, national and global situation leads even further to a public health crisis, a public safety crisis, and ultimately, a national security crisis. Those conversations and interventions cannot wait.

Yael Swerdlow, CEO & Founder

Maestro Games, SPC

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