At one time or another, anyone who has worked in Emergency Services for more than a few months will get asked, what was your worst call? This is a question we hate after being asked the first time. How do you quantify and qualify “the worst?” Does “the worst” have specific requirements for people asking the question? My “worst” and your “worst” could have two totally different definitions. Should it be based on number of people injured or killed ? How about extent of injuries? Or what about what could possibly motivate people to do some of the heinous things they do?
Time and time again dispatchers get dismissed because they don’t respond to the scene and see the wreckage of the calls they handle. They are being told that what we hear “isn’t that bad”…we should be able to handle any and everything without it impacting us. I would love to find a human being that can listen to what we hear and not be impacted. A mother discovering their baby dead due to no fault of her own. Hearing the sound a parent makes when the one thing they love more than themselves is gone and there is nothing they can do. Continue reading “What Was Your Worst Call?”→
Suicide. What does that word mean to you? Do you think it would change if someone close to you died by suicide? Think about that for a minute. Think about if you worked in a high stress job day in and day out with the training and conditioning to believe that you cannot feel sad or depressed or you would be considered or seen as weak.
Think about what it would be like to be a police officer or first responder. Think about how each day you see people at their worst. Think about how people do not call first responders when they are having a good day or just to say hi. Think about seeing things no one should ever see in their lifetime over and over again, and not being able to express how deep it may hurt you or sadden you. How would you deal with that? How would you handle depression or PTSD as a result of the job you do and not being able to go to your co-workers without being stigmatized or taken off of the road for fear of being a liability? Continue reading “The First Responders Mental Health Stigma: Can It Be Changed?”→
There will come a day when your son or daughter will find that photo of you that we all have had taken when we joined or made Class “A” status or got promoted. You know the one where you look somewhat awkward with your hat tipped to far back and you weren’t sure if you were supposed to smile or not. Yeah, that one. It’s been a few years since anybody has looked at that picture. It got put away and buried deep in a closet in a box with some of the other stuff that you use to have on the mantle or hanging on the wall in the den. Maybe a few awards, old helmet, group shot of you and the crew.
Your child was younger back then, and never saw that stuff displayed. He or she is older now. Today, he finds that box, takes out the picture and looks at it intently. He takes a look at you. Then back to the picture of you in your class “A”. With a puzzled look, he turns to you and asks, “Daddy? When you used to be a fireman were you brave? And Daddy, how come you’re not a fireman anymore?” What will your answer be? Continue reading ““Daddy, were you brave? And how come you’re not a fireman anymore?””→
An open letter to a friend who is struggling with addiction.
I think of you often. Tonight, I decided to put my thoughts on paper.
When I was in my early forties, I was a young wife and mother with three small children. Due to circumstances at that time, I planned my suicide because I thought that everyone would be better off without me. I felt hopeless. Helpless. I believed I was a failure. To my children. To my husband. To everyone I loved.
That changed one morning. I was determined to make something of my life. I vowed that I would never let anyone suffer alone with depression without offering them my help.
I know your life On earth was troubled And only you could know the pain You weren’t afraid to face the devil You were no stranger to the rain
Oh, how we cried the day you left us We gathered round your grave to grieve ~ Go Rest On the Mountain lyrics, Vince Gill
Although Tim Casey and I had never met in person, we had a long-standing friendship through emails and phone calls. Several years ago, I received his first email. He had attached an article he wrote about his struggles as a firefighter; the nightmares, his addiction to alcohol, and his suicide attempt. He wanted to share his story in an effort to touch one firefighter, officer or other first responder who was struggling with these same demons. He felt it was his duty as someone in recovery to tell them “help is available”.
Thank you, Tim, for your friendship and your efforts to help your brothers and sisters. May you find peace, at last, on that mountain.
A very close friend of mine encouraged me to visit the Warrior’s Heart website, and review them as a potential first responder facility for addiction and post traumatic stress. I called the 800 number and was pleasantly surprised to be speaking with Josh, a co-founder. He gave me a clear and concise description of their mission as well an overview of the day-to-day activities at Warrior’s Heart. I knew in my heart that I was talking with someone genuine. This place is something very special.
This morning, I woke up as my husband was getting ready to head into work. Today is his normal day off, yet he is going in to work some overtime and to lead the range training for the other officers. I saw his range uniform lying there. He got dressed. I gave him a kiss, told him his butt looked good in those pants and off he went. I proceeded to start laundry, and I see his uniform needs to be washed. I broke down. Why? I can’t tell you exactly why it was that moment that sent me into tears. All I know is that moment sparked a million thoughts running rampant through my head.
What if this is the last time I wash this uniform? What if I get “the call”? What if something bad happens?
Then my mind turns to hate. Why don’t all these idiots understand? Why are they killing MY family? If I had it my way, I’d just… and I stopped myself. Hate is powerful, and in a matter of seconds, I had so much rage inside of me against these Officer Murdering Cowards. (Okay, maybe there’s still a little bit). I should not give these monsters that satisfaction.
Back to more questions that run through my head as I’m in tears. Why does he do it? Wait… HOW does he do it? You can ask any officer WHY they do their job, and you will likely get a very politically correct answer of, “to serve my community” which for most is VERY true. However, “WHY” is a very loaded word. Continue reading “Why and How: Thoughts from a Police Officer’s Wife”→
I carry her spirit and the spirits of many others along with me through this life and they will remain forever in my heart. They will continue to remind me that sometimes, the only thing I can do is just be there for my patient and let them know that someone does care.
I anxiously watched the clock’s second hand slowly ticking off the seconds until this shift was over. My ears strained to hear the sound of my replacement driving up the gravel driveway as I stared blindly out the window of the shift bedroom. “To hell with the call gods,” I thought and I packed up my duffel bag. Stuffing the pieces of my life that I carried back and forth to work with me into my old duffel bag, I defiantly dared the tones to drop. I glanced at the clock again and thought of how ironic it is that the last 30 minutes of any shift last the longest.
With another ten minutes to wait, I rolled up my sleeping bag and tossed it into the locker. I tensed a little, thinking I had heard the slight static the speaker system puked out before the tones dropped and stopped what I was doing to listen for the staccato beeps. But not this time. This time the beeps didn’t come and the speaker remained silent. This time the call gods must have sensed that I was teetering on the edge. They must have known what I did not know. Whatever it was, they waited until eleven minutes after I punched out to drop the tones and page the rig out to an assault on the other side of the reservation. Continue reading “The Pink Cross”→
by Kay Wilson-Bolton
Chaplain, Ventura County Fire Department
Observing others in grief can be as difficult as being in your own. The emotions for those standing by can range from fear, confusion, helplessness, anger, pity, frustration and deep sorrow.
Grieving is hard work, and its different for everyone. Ask the mother who never cried over the loss of four adult children and a granddaughter. Ask the long-married wife who cannot stop crying after the death of her husband. Ask the parents who just lost a newborn to SIDS death.
It’s difficult to know how to respond to people suffering grief. Those who are brave enough to speak often attempt to rationalize the death with personalized theological truths. Those who feel shy about reaching out to grieving people will avoid them altogether which can be as hurtful as saying the wrong thing.
If you plan to stay with the grieving person, don’t judge any behavior. If you want to be a friend in comfort, create an emotionally safe environment where anything goes and you are okay.
Most people know to never say, “I know how you feel.” No one can know how anyone feels. If it’s true, you can say, “I lost a daughter too. I know the pain.” However, give yourself permission to say nothing. Don’t compete with their grief. Your silence will be comfort enough, and you will know when it is time to speak. You can never really add value to sitting through a death by saying something. Your presence has its own value. Continue reading “Giving Grief A Chance”→