A college professor once asked the class, “How heavy is a glass of water?” The professor received several answers, but the professor replied, “The weight doesn’t matter, it depends on how long you try to hold it. The longer you hold it, the heavier it becomes. That is, until you put it down and rest.”
Stress is the same way. If we carry stress, especially after a critical incident, the stress can become increasingly heavy, if not dealt with properly. The stress may lead to a crisis.
by Steven Gerlang, EMT
Central Islip Hauppauge Volunteer Ambulance
Our emergency service workers; Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians: psychological well-being is often taken for granted and over looked. Studies have shown that there are roughly 18 to 20 members of our Emergency Services that take their own lives each day here in the United States (the exact amount is unknown as many of these deaths go down as “accidental overdoses” or “accidental weapon discharges”). More services should be offered to these individuals that we expect so much from. What can be done about it and why hasn’t the media stirred public outrage over these numbers? What causes these men and women to feel so isolated and alone that they decide to take their own lives?
The mental well-being of our nation’s first responders goes unnoticed and untreated: the media would rather keep us occupied with the circus of the current presidential debates; than the current growing suicide epidemic facing our nation’s bravest and finest. Why do we as a country look at mental illness as a taboo? We are one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to technology and medicine; yet we ignore or stigmatize those we entrust with public safety and security for seeking help after they have seen too much of humanities worst. This stigmatization in our country is one of the key reasons many of our first responders do not seek help for mental health issues they may experience from the traumas they experience; one of the fears they have is being ostracized by their co-workers or employers for asking for help. By being afraid to seek help, these brave men and woman are left feeling isolated, alone and helpless with their emotions. Continue reading “Who Helps Those That Help Us”→
During a class last week, a lady made the comment: “That’s the problem with police, you don’t show enough feeling. You don’t feel enough.” She’s adopted without examination that particularly dangerous leftist idea that this nation’s protectors are inhuman security robots, walking through the world without experiencing it. Her assumption that those who purchase peace through violence are somehow less deserving. Anyway, I stewed over the weekend on it, and wrote the following this morning. Continue reading “The Tyranny of Feeling”→
“God is in control.” This is such a simple statement, yet one that exhibits a deepening faith, which requires that I trust in the Lord with all my heart for every situation and circumstance. God has a master plan, a higher goal and a special purpose for my life.
His ways and thoughts are not my ways and thoughts. I may even fail to comprehend the path that I am following; but I must not lean on my own understanding. In all ways, I am to acknowledge Him for He is God, the Creator. He knew me before I was formed inside the very womb of my mother. He knows my thoughts before I ever speak a word. Nothing I do is hidden from His eyes. Continue reading “A Quiet Moment, God is in Control”→
Based upon his emotional survival guidebook: “Bulletproof Spirit: The First Responders Essential Resource for Protecting and Healing Mind and Heart” (New World Library, 2014) firstresponderwellness.com
Consistently being immersed in violence, tragedies, danger, evil, and suffering can often scar the spirit of any first responder. Tragically, each year more officers kill themselves than die in the line of duty, with an estimated 120,000 more suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is essential for first responder agencies and individuals to incorporate proactive emotional survival training and wellness initiatives that nurture, protect, and heal the spirit—to bulletproof officer’s spirits to prevent them from becoming victims of their chosen profession.
The adverse effects of a career as a first responder are poisonous and cumulative. Like a cancer, dedicated yet unsuspecting officers have the potential to slowly succumb to the toxic, debilitating effects of acute stress and trauma with little training on how to effectively process the internal damage. The job has an inherent ability to turn officers into someone their loved ones no longer recognize. First responder agencies nation-wide lose far too many officers due to their inability, primarily from lack of wellness training, to prepare for and process stress and trauma in a constructive way. Losing an officer to suicide, depression, or emotional suffering should never be just part of the job. There are effective wellness practices that can work to insulate the spirit of officers and help them reach a natural retirement with a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Continue reading “Bulletproof Spirit: Emotional Survival and Effective Wellness Strategies”→
Diagnosed almost two and a half years ago, I am finally at a place that I feel good again. I feel like I can now deal with my issues on my own and have been for a while. I am not sure what worked to get me here, but I do have some ideas.
By far one of my biggest concerns has been the stigma of having PTSD. It took me some time to figure out that I just had to tell people about it and if they have a problem with it that it is their problem and not my problem. If you have been following me in Firefighter PTSD – a closed group on Facebook – you know my story and you know I felt a need to talk about my experiences in hopes of helping someone else.
At first, I hid behind the title of the page and was simply “firefighter PTSD” to the world. I confided in my closest friends and they listened to me when I needed to talk and they supported me when I needed it. Some stayed strong and true to me and a few drifted. That’s ok, I still appreciate them all. Continue reading “Finding a Positive: Pushing The Stigma Down”→
My story, as my old chief used to say, is “the same, but different”. Many female firefighters experience harassment of one kind or another while on the job. Although what I went through is my unique experience, it may seem familiar to others who have tread these same paths. The names have been changed to protect privacy.
I joined the fire service as a volunteer in 1999. I was bored and was looking for some way to do something “great”. My volunteer department was very accepting and through that acceptance I was encouraged to abandon what I went to college for (education) and pursue a career in the fire service full time. It was a dream I’d had since I was a toddler, and I was going to make it come true.
The first department I worked for was a run of the mill combination department here in the South. My very existence upset some because they’d never had a woman fight fire before, and others were intrigued by the “school teacher” turned firefighter. I took a lot of flack from the other paid staff and the chief. When the freezer broke down one weekend in the summer and 25 lbs of “mountain oysters” ruined, I was forced to clean it up with no help from the guys. The chief thought it was pretty funny that I had to clean up 25 lbs of rotten goat testicles out of his personal freezer in the station. I took it in stride. Continue reading “Harassment in the Fire Service”→
As I talk to more and more first responders throughout the country, it is apparent that we aren’t doing enough to help our brothers and sisters deal with the stresses that we face both from critical incident responses and the PTSD that can result from them as well as dealing with everyday life which can add a ton of extra pressure on our lives.
We all deal with these issues differently, and not always in the most healthy ways. And it’s not just about the drinking or using other substances to alleviate the stress. It’s also about how we might start to isolate from our families and friends, lose interest in things that used to give us pleasure and purpose, like the firehouse or fishing or going to the beach. The list is endless. The point is, there are solutions, discrete solutions, to what messes with our heads and it’s OK to ask for help. It only gets worse with time. The most popular emails or messages I get from men and women from every corner of the county is, I thought it was just me and that I was alone, but now I see I am not the only one feeling this way. You are not alone. I wanted to share this story that was sent to me from a friend who reached out and asked for help and has changed his life. Continue reading “Discrete Solutions”→