“Find the people who know how important mental health is and stick with them”
This story is reprinted with permission from The Code Green Campaign. Code Green accepts stories from EMS providers, firefighters, dispatch personnel and law enforcement officers who have experienced stress, trauma or mental health issues.
I’ve been a medic for 1 year, a firefighter for 6 months. I started having suicidal thoughts and hurting myself 6 months into medic school. I have no history of mental health problems and I was shocked to start experiencing them, as I had yet to have any “bad” calls. I handled them mostly on my own best I could until about a month ago.
I realized that what I was doing off shift was affecting my attitude on shift. It was causing me to be a different paramedic and firefighter than the one I wanted to be. I’m writing this for encouragement because I have read many stories about the support people have asked for and not received. Well I asked for help from my department about a month ago and the support I have received has been life changing. My battalion chief, captain and 2 lieutenants are aware of what’s going on, and they have been nothing but supportive.
I’ve had multiple conversations with all of them and they’ve handled it all better than I could’ve imagined. I’ve been brutally honest and they’ve never acted like they don’t want to know or don’t want to hear it. They repeatedly let me know that we’re family and we’re here for each other.
So for the people who are not receiving support, I’m sorry your department or agency doesn’t know how to handle mental health. I’m sorry it makes people uncomfortable. But there really are people who care. If no one where you work wants to hear what’s going on in your head, leave. Find a different group to work with. Find the people who know how important mental health is and stick with them.
— Story written by a 21-year old female firefighter/paramedic: 1 year on the job