Public Safety Professionals see stuff on a daily basis that would considerably disturb most people. Firefighters, EMTs, Paramedics, and Law Enforcement Officers are exposed to incredibly stressful situations and we just think it is normal and part of their job. It is not normal. It is not normal for what the average citizen is exposed to in their daily lives. These repeated exposures to extremely stressful or tragic situations cause stressors in the mind of these brave first responders. Eventually, these stressors can have extreme psychological impacts leading to PTSD. Unfortunately, these public safety heroes are sometimes afraid to discuss what is bothering them. Maybe it because they just don’t think anyone else cares? Maybe they consider themselves too macho to bring their concerns forward? Or maybe they are afraid their coworkers will think they are weak or their management will look down on them or even penalize them for reporting a mental health illness?
We need to break this cycle of fear in our workplaces. We need to allow an open discussion in our workplaces about mental health concerns. We need to change the culture of machoism or fear of repercussions for reporting mental health concerns. PTSD discussions should be as commonplace at the workplace dinner table as what you’re going to do on your next day off.
How do we break this cycle of hiding PTSD and mental health injuries? How do we change the culture and make these issues commonplace without fear of stigmas or employer sanctions? We must be able to talk about these issues freely so our brave men and women can bring their concerns forward and express the internal hurt, pain and struggles they are dealing with so they can get help before it begins to destroy them. Gone untreated these mental injuries will destroy relationships, families and eventually the person suffering. We should also always be looking for signs of PTSD and how we can approach someone and offer help or get them to open up before their life spirals out of control.
Question 1: Do you feel comfortable discussing mental health issues in your workplace?
Question 2: If you do not feel comfortable, what are some of the reasons why you wouldn’t bring your emotional concerns forward?
Question 3: Can you identify signs that someone is struggling with emotional stressors?
Question 4: Would you know how to approach someone and ask them if they are struggling?
Question 5: What program or programs does your agency offer for mental health concerns/injuries?
Question 6: Do you know where to find help if you are suffering from an emotional crisis?