Ohio EMS providers fighting for PTSD protocol speak out

Anonymous paramedics shared their struggles with PTSD and urged the city to recognize mental trauma in their new contract


By EMS1 Staff

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Anonymous paramedics shared their experiences with PTSD as they continue to fight for protocol from the city on handling mental trauma.

In a new series from Cleveland 19, three Cleveland EMS paramedics using the names Norman, Sam and Jason discussed dealing with PTSD without proper training.

Cleveland EMS providers are fighting for PTSD support in contract negotiations.(Photo/YouTube)
Cleveland EMS providers are fighting for PTSD support in contract negotiations.(Photo/YouTube)

“I actually started having nightmares. And the nightmare that would always flash was that little girl,” Sam said, recalling a baby he could not save. “They don’t teach you to tell the mother that a 1-year-old is dead from a gunshot wound to the head.”

Jason said no one teaches EMS providers how to “cope” after trauma.

“You aren’t taught how you’re supposed to cope, to decompress. How you’re supposed to go home, and live your life after you leave work,” he said.

Norman said being a paramedic has shown him a darker perspective.

“Nobody knows how dark human nature actually is until you have a front row seat to the whole thing,” he said.

 
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Posted by Sara Goldenberg Cleveland 19 News on Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The three paramedics said they love their jobs, they just want to take care of themselves.

“We need mental health help out here. There has to be something. We all think it’s time,” they said.

An anonymous former Cleveland EMS commander, using the name Mark, said he’ll never forget the stress of the job.

“I was suicidal at one point. The accumulation of everything I'd done and seen and been through, and I just saw no other way out. It was just a really, really dark place,” Mark said. “I was working at headquarters at the time, at lunchtime my plan was to – I had a train schedule, go down to Lakeside, I think it was the 20th or 22nd or something I don’t remember exactly, and I was going to drive in front of a train.”

Mark said he was diagnosed with PTSD after something stopped him and he decided to get help. He said his concerns about mental health were not addressed during his time with CEMS.

“If you have a mental health issue, you're on your own. People are compassionate at first but then when you don't have a visible injury or illness or something you can put your finger on, you're expected to come back to work and to be all smiles and function,” he said.

Mark said he was shocked when he learned there is still no EMS protocol in place for PTSD.

“EMS folks commit their lives to taking care of people they don't even know. And I mean, I don't know that there's anything more noble than that, but they don't get any support,” he said. “It's just a very toxic environment, and it's unhealthy and the turnover rate is incredibly high as you probably know. I'm afraid that someone's going to commit suicide or people overdose.”

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