ON A PERSONAL NOTE...
Years ago, I started blogging as an outlet to help with my PTSD symptoms. Sitting down at a computer and writing about fighter jets may not seem like "therapy" to some of you, but it has helped me escape the stresses of the EMS world that I am a part of in my "day job". For that, I am thankful.
Unfortunately, some are not so lucky.
Tragedy struck my station last week when a colleague, partner, and good friend lost his battle with mental illness. We did not just lose a coworker that day, but a member of our family.
Being witness to traumatic events, long hours, sleep deprivation, and a high-stress work environment all take their toll. It is no wonder that first responders have a high incidence of mental illness.
Unfortunately, some dismiss the issue; stating that first responders "know what they signed up for". The truth is; paramedics, firefighters, police, and other first responders can witness sights many people cannot even fathom. Nobody knows how they will react to these sights until it is too late to be "unseen". It is not just blood, guts, and gore (that's easy) but the very darkest aspects of the human condition. This could include watching a terminal cancer patient waste away, a burn victim crying out in pain, or a child abuse victim.
Through it all, first responders are expected to stay sympathetic and professional. One minute they may have to inform a family that grandma is dead... Only to have that same level of thoughtfulness when the frequent flier drug-seeker calls in 20 minutes later with a "sore toe".
Sound challenging? It is.
While there is help available, many do not take advantage of it. This is due to the stigma attached to mental illness. We tend to dismiss those with a mental illness as "weak" or "looking for attention". Let me be the first to tell you that anyone contemplating hurting themselves is in serious need of help. Suicide is not "an easy way out". It is a fatality caused by depression. Worse still, a suicide has more than one victim as family and friends are made to suffer their loss.
For those of you in need, I implore you: PLEASE GET HELP.
For those of you who know someone in need: PLEASE OFFER HELP
For those who are not sure: PLEASE CONSIDER A MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID COURSE
Much like regular first aid, mental health first aid could mean the difference between life-and-death to someone in need. The course focuses on breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness, as well as going over various disorders.
For more information on how mental illness affects first responders, please go to tema.ca.