As emergency responders, we derive great joy from being the steady face of confidence when helping people on the worst days of their lives. But what internal toll does that take on us? Witnessing the effects of disaster and other personal issues may cause psychological molehills to turn into mountains as we pile up experiences.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a major mental health issue, but it is not our primary mental health problem. It trails relationship issues, financial issues, substance abuse, depression and legal concerns.
There are times when even the strongest responder begins to question the effectiveness of their ability to save lives and property. We may begin to feel alienated from our teammates, family and friends. Maybe we lost the feelings of happiness or security.
Often we can see these signs appearing in each other but fail to recognize them within ourselves. We take the “it can’t happen to me” attitude and continue as if nothing is wrong. That is until someone stops us to point out that we have been constantly hiding in our room between calls or scheduled station events, or just not acting in our usual manner.
In this sense, we are as responsible for each other as we are to the communities we serve.