First Responder Mental Health

Along with 6 of my colleagues and numerous other First Responders from across Canada, I was fortunate to be able to attend a 5 day train-the-trainer workshop called “Road to Mental Readiness” a few weeks ago.  My employer has recognized the mental health of our employees is just as important as their physical health.  Now I am lucky enough to be able to assist my colleagues in both capacities…as a Peer Fitness Trainer and now as a trainer for the Road to Mental Readiness program.

This week of training was outstanding and our team of 7 trainers are so excited to bring this information to our leaders and our coworkers starting in November.

The course focused on recognition of symptoms and noticing changes in our peers.  For example, Jimmy got cut off in traffic on his way to work this morning.  This is something that angers everyone…but a normal response to this would be to be upset for a few minutes and then get over it and continue with your day.  If Jimmy were to respond to this with anger and rage that lasts all day, or longer, this is unusual and potentially a symptom of a larger concern for his mental health.  For us to recognize that this is not a normal response for Jimmy to have in this situation is one of the first steps in helping him!

There are a lot of stressors in a person’s life which results in the accumulation of stressors that puts us over the edge.  Some examples…financial, family issues (divorce, children, etc), organizational & operational (personality conflicts, high call volume, lack of resources, etc).  As much as we try to leave these stressors at the door when we show up for work, or go on a call, they stick with us and affect how we interact with our patients and respond to certain situations.

It is the responsibility of all of us to Shield – Sense – Support our colleagues.  There are some simple ways that we can accomplish this:
Shield – be available to talk, provide support, provide ideas for self-care (exercise, music, reading, etc),
Sense – know a person’s baseline so that you can notice the change, confidentiality is essential, stop the gossip, encourage early access to care, check up/follow up to see how they are coping.
Support – recognize the symptoms of declining mental health, stop gossip, maintain contact with the person, know your limits and who to go to to get help for the person.

I’m so excited to be on the team that will bring this training to my colleagues!  This information can be used for anyone in any setting (not just First Responders).

One last very important thing that I learned in this course…don’t be afraid to ask.  If you know, or can sense, that someone is struggling…please, please, please open the conversation with them before it is potentially too late.  If they will open up to you even a little bit…remember that this is the first stage of getting help!

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Author: thehealthylifesaver

I have been a paramedic for 17 years and over the years I have seen unhealthy lifestyle habits and many injuries to coworkers and friends. I have a passion for the health, wellness, and career longevity of Paramedics and decided to start a blog to promote these qualities. I hope to start a change in our physically and mentally demanding profession of paramedicine towards taking better care of ourselves.

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