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by Don Prince
Doing what we do is an amazingly rewarding sacrifice of our time, and the commitment that we make when we sign up to be a part of something that, over time, grows within us and becomes part of who we are. Time spent helping strangers, time spent training and being a part of a family outside of your home. Time away from your home and loved ones which, at times, can put a stress on those relationships. Time away from your regular job (or second job) which, for some, can even put the pressure of a financial burden on us at times. Add in to the equation the effects of PTSD, which is always a possibility lurking in the shadows of what we do.
We all handle these pressures differently. For most of us, it’s all in a day’s work and we can deal with it and move on to the next day with little or no impact on our regular routine. There are, however, some stresses that affect different people in different ways and letting go of what is going on in our heads isn’t so easy. It can build and build until we need an escape. Something to help us let go, even if only for a few hours. And it works for a while. It did for me. Continue reading
by John Feal
Founder and President
Director of the Zadroga Bill (HR 847)
In slightly more than an hour eleven years ago, nearly three thousand lives were tragically cut far too short. More than three thousand families were instantly re-directed; mourning the loss of their loved ones while wondering how they would navigate their futures without them.
The reaches of September 11th went well past the East and Hudson Rivers. The same terribly historic hour also propelled our nation’s armed forces into battle in two separate countries, causing the loss of hundreds more of this country’s youth and future leaders. Today’s eighteen-year-old servicemen were merely seven-years-old when the fate of their service was determined.
During that same summer hour, thousands of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, correction officers and emergency personnel converged onto the World Trade Center site in order to save their fellow Americans, hoping their skills and training could save the life of even one person. Soon after, the Twin Towers collapsed. First Responders realized that they would not save their peers, but that their skills would be needed in an entirely different mission, recovery. They would be joined in this mission during the hours, days, weeks and months following the attacks by tens-of-thousands of their brothers and sisters in the construction trades, communication industry and volunteers. The goal of recovery was not limited to the recovery of the personal effects of those lost, but the recovery of this country from one of its darkest moments. Over the next year, the combined efforts of First Responders enabled families to find closure in the burials of their loved ones. They removed the debris from the World Trade Center Site and provided these services with an unmatched dignity, professionalism and heroism. Continue reading
To learn more about suicide and it’s impact on the Unites States, click here
by Shannon Pennington
North American Fire Fighter Veteran Network
Post Traumatic Stress. If You Don’t Have It. When You Get It.
Looking around the fire service, we are constantly told that firefighting is a “stressful job”. Really? I had not noticed that. Who told you that?
Firefighting, including medical, heavy rescue, hazmat and the list goes on, is really one of being a “Target rich workplace where we are exposed to trauma on a regular routine basis as a part of our job”.
Most of us will, and do, have more than adequate ability to cope with the runs and the trauma. So what happens when we get the one that “sticks with you?”
We have all been there in the work. You try to shake it off, and it doesn’t go away. As you go off shift, it sticks with you and into the next shift cycle or call out. Some of those calls seem normal and, in fact, do normalize in your headspace. You are back to your sunny self, full of firefighter humor and wit. You know, the side you show to your buddies, your family and friends. All is normal again, and on you go. Continue reading
by Cindy Armstrong
One day I went for an interview to become an EMS Dispatcher and then I was hired.
I was told that I wouldn’t make it a year, as I’d get stressed out and tired.
So excited getting the first few calls, I knew that I wanted to help people all the more.
Helping others is all I ever wanted to do, but little did I know what was in store.
With each call different from the next, they started to come in, one by one.
There were accidents, people with burns, stabbings, and a man with a gun.
There was difficulty breathing, chest pain, abdominal pain, and a fall to the floor,
The ambulances were sent and the paramedics would respond with a big “10-4″.
by Robert Cubby
Captain (retired), Jersey City Police
I cannot help but feel I’m on my way to seeing a repeat of my experience during the first World Trade Center attack. You see, I was unfortunate enough to be at the front row seat of history in both attacks. And watching events unfold as they are now, I recognize that much of my reaction may be simply a triggering of my PTSD from the first attack. But I still cannot ignore the facts as they are presenting themselves that an attack may be imminent once again, this time by ISIS.
But a recounting of the events as they happened that day may be in order. Maybe you can, then, be the judge. Am I imagining due to my triggers? Or should I be concerned? Should I warn people? Or will they just view me as “losing it” and imagining something that just isn’t there? It’s hard to try to ignore, to “un-know” what I know and what I’ve seen. Continue reading
by Maryanne Pope
When I was back in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta in May 2011, I met up with Darren, the police officer who was with my husband, John, the night he died in September 2000. Darren was the K-9 officer who went into the warehouse with John, also a police officer, to investigate a break and enter complaint.
When Darren first arrived at the warehouse, he’d found John and his partner, Lil, their Sergeant, Rick, and several other team mates waiting for him in the parking lot.
Darren got out of his vehicle, pointed straight at John and said, “You — let’s go!”
Darren chose John because he’d personally trained John in recruit class how to safely and effectively search buildings. Darren had to choose someone and John was it. So in they went.
On the evening of January 24, 1986, within an hour of stepping off a school bus, I found myself dying from a self-inflicted gun-shot wound. I was 16 years old. I was alone in the woods and there was little hope of anyone finding me. I actually planned it that way.
Looking back, I recognize it was a journey that led me from life to suicide’s final resolute moment. I understand the second chance I got at life, starting with an equally resolute moment and an intervention from heaven. I knew life was a gift, and I wanted to live. I decided it would be better to die fighting for my life, instead of lying helplessly waiting for what seemed like the inevitable.
The book answers the most frequently asked question of me, “Why? Why did you shoot yourself?” It addresses how that decision impacted my life, the suicidal symptoms I presented in my life prior to the shooting, insight into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as my personal experience with a near-death experience.
Lt. Harry Fagel has written many poems about living and working in Las Vegas. In a profession not generally noted for “creativity,” Lt. Fagel proves that true artistry abounds at LVMPD. His performance is from the recent Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department charity awards gala, where numerous officers were honored for their brave life-saving and crime-fighting deeds.
by Jason Zangara
Former Police Officer, Badge #1673
A bullet so filled with speed
But when it lies in its empty shell,
It becomes hollow.
As hollow as the target,
Shallow as the lake of fire.
So much power.
But left with empty brass…
Bullet, copper, brass
Metal, speed, power.
NO! YOU ARE NOT MY TRUTH…!
You are a burn that is an instant,
But that is forever…
And forever is NOT NOW AND NOT EVER…
I respect you, Bullet.
But you are NOT FOR ME…!
So be shallow and be empty,
For my Life is Full of Fulfillment,
So, my Bullet, I secure you for thy enemy.
I may be running blind, but not without Sight.
About the Author: Jason Zangara is a single father to an eight year old son, Bear. Jason served two years as a Corrections officer and eleven years as a Police officer. He is proud to have received two life saving medals, Excellent Police Duty medal, Meritorious Medal, Combat Cross, and is nominated for Governor Rick Scott’s Officer of Valor award. Jason was also awarded the Chief’s Coin of Bravery and Commitment.
Learn more about the First Step Hope: Not All Wounds Are Visible
program for first responders, click here.
by Jason Zangara
I was sitting in my marked West Palm Beach police car, X-291, in the 3300 block of Village Boulevard. I was working on the new Telestaff system, getting familiar with this state of the art software. I had all my windows down on the car, a very calming and strong breeze came through. As the wind struck me, I closed my eyes and took in the comforting breeze. At that point, I was calm and felt at peace.
I heard, directly behind me, a sound like a freight train slamming the brakes and the sound of iron hitting iron. With sounds of screaming horror. I exited the cruiser and started toward the chaos. Officer Rebholz was screaming into the radio, “10-18. 18. 18. Officer down, medics 10-18”!!!!!!!! I passed him in my cruiser as he was yelling at traffic. I drove past him and noticed a white pickup truck had a motorbike pinned to the guardrail. I exited my car, went to the trunk and deployed two trauma kit bags and an ambo bag. I got all bags operational and ready to go.
There were two officers on scene talking to Officer Bruce St. Lureant. Bruce was lying with his back facing northbound, his lower torso west, and his head was facing south on I-95, under the wreckage and alone! I told the other officer where the trauma bags were and that they were ready to go. Continue reading
by Robert Cubby
I watch now, helplessly, as my friend, Officer Jason Zangara, formerly of the West Palm Beach Police Department systematically loses everything near and dear to him. After he was terminated for failing to resume full duties as a police officer as the result of PTSD, he thought he was going to at least be awarded a disability pension. He was denied.
After the reports were reviewed from six separate doctors stating that Jason had chronic PTSD and was unable to continue as a police officer on full duty, the board decided, based on no discernible evidence medical or otherwise, that PTSD was “subjective and not creditable.” They denied benefits. Continue reading
by Nathan Nixon
Police Officer (Retired)
In the Law Enforcement profession, they teach you about helping others and doing what is right, to make a difference in society. These are all good attributes and ones that Law Enforcement Officers do every day, most of the time without thanks or praise. They do it because they love it, and it is considered a noble profession. But, what about the things they do not tell you: the long hours, miserable weather conditions, the horrific examples of the way humans treat other humans. How do you deal with these things?
Most will tell you that you need to compartmentalize and keep these sights and sounds buried deep inside you, not tell anyone about them. They will tell you that you need to find a way to deal with the stress of the job. No one ever really gives us any useful information; it is figure it out as you go.
What happens when your marriage falls apart because you had to work the weekends and holidays protecting others? You missed out on spending time with your family, and your spouse gets tired of not seeing you, and leaves you. What happens when you become a single parent because you are working crazy hours, and your kids begin to suffer? Worst yet, what happens when you begin to suffer because you do not sleep well, eat well, and are not working out like you used to? What happens when your agency tells you that these are personal issues, and they will not get involved unless it starts to affect your mental wellbeing? What happens when you want to reach out for help, but are scared you will be ridiculed by your peers, or sent to a fitness for duty exam? Continue reading
Addiction and Post Traumatic Stress: Avoiding a Crisis in Your Home, Workplace and Community
Presenter: Peggy Sweeney, The Sweeney Alliance
Depression, addiction, and post traumatic stress are today’s hot topics. National, state and local leaders scramble to find a “fix” for these problems, but are coming up short on results. Budgets are being stretched, medical costs are increasing, and family cohesiveness is being strained. The numbers of those most in need are growing at an astounding rate. Sadly, too many waiting for help are turning to suicide to cope. This workshop addresses these issues and provides valuable resources available to every person, including our community first responders – law enforcement officers, 911 dispatchers, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel.
Dr Anna Baranowsky
Published on Jul 18, 2014
Dr Anna Baranowsky talks about the tragic suicides of police, EMS, military members and other care providers. Who is responsible and what needs to be done about it. She encourages wounded warriors everywhere to get help and know that you are not alone.
“What happens when we are not recovering after a traumatic event? Dr. Baranowsky explains trauma response and approaches for recovery. Over 85 % of people surveyed were exposed to trauma in their life time. Trauma is not unusual and the ability to recover is wired in our bodies. Sometimes we just need some guidance along the way.” Dr Anna Baranowsky
F.I.R.E.S. Within (Firefighter Increased Risk Exposure to Suicide)
by Shannon Pennington
North American Fire Fighter Veteran Network
This is not a pretty subject to even mention in a fire house or around the kitchen table unless it is about the civilian death or attempt that took place on a shift recently. Why is it that we can do the post-mortem discussion around the table on them, but when it comes to us we clam up? All who read this know and have some sort of understanding that suicide is a sickness in the individual that ended up with that person dead. No coming back from that. As we have looked around the fire service community of late, one cannot but help notice that the body count of firefighters who have taken their life, for whatever reason, is on the rise.
Fire service leaders have finally started to ask the questions that need answers. For me, one of the most obviously stated questions I have ever heard came from a chief in a round table discussion on the subject. He stood at the table in his white shirt, with radio on his hip, cell phone attached on the other, beautiful gold badge and gold name tag on his shirt and announced to the room, “all I want to know is why are my men killing themselves? Can someone tell me?” Continue reading
by Becky Leveillee
My name is Becky and I am the wife of a great Firefighter/EMT. Chris has been a great husband and a great person. Unfortunately, for the last two years he has suffered from PTSD. This serious problem has changed him in so many ways.
In the past, he would do anything for anyone, loved his job, and loved his life. Since he started showing symptoms of PTSD he has changed in so many ways. He is depressed, full of rage, rude, can’t sleep, and has been in the hospital a few times for wanting to kill himself. He feels like a failure. Continue reading
by Peggy Sweeney
The Sweeney Alliance
Over the years, I have been very fortunate to not only instruct firefighters, but many of their wives or partners as well. When I would ask them for comments, questions, or feedback, I usually got little or no response. Understandably! Wives or partners are very reluctant to talk in front of their spouse about their feelings, their fears, or what is in their hearts. Many spouses wonder why the warm, loving, and carefree person they married does not come home like that anymore.
I will tell you that I know what many of you fear: that your spouse or partner may be struggling mentally and emotionally with the traumas of their job. You realize that what they see, hear, taste, and feel on a recurring basis is beginning to play a major role in how they view life, living, and their job. When the call goes well, life is good! When their best efforts to save a life or protect property from ruin do not end positively, it is a BAD DAY!
by Eric Paniak
Why is it that when one of our own is having emotional problems we alienate or isolate them? Our job is inherently dangerous and mentally taxing on our families and firefighters. When one of our own has an injury or physical illness, we support him and his family. But let that illness be depression or substance abuse, and we back away like it is contagious. Continue reading