This piece is part of our Mental Health Month blog series, where we highlight and explore eight different mental health struggles. Here’s Jeremy’s experience with and perspective on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
On January 31 of 2019, a coworker and friend of mine died by suicide. We, in the fire service and public safety fields, see things on a regular basis that human beings aren’t meant to see and experience. I, too, have experienced PTSD at a young age from this line of work, but I was able to seek and get the help I needed. Unfortunately, today it remains an epidemic in the United States, and we’re just now starting to address the issue.
We pull dead, mangled bodies from some of the most horrific crash scenes you could imagine.
We see children, innocent children, that have been beaten and abused, sometimes killed by their own families.
We work on children in cardiac arrest as their mothers and fathers cry and scream in the background begging us to save their babies.
We listen to patients complain about how long it took for us to get to their house after we just cleared another call.
We sometimes have to lie to loved ones, telling them “we’re doing everything we can” as we rush their loved one to the ER knowing there’s nothing more we can do.
We’ve been kicked, punched, bitten and sometimes even sustain life-long injuries from patients who we were just trying to help.
We sit and pray with an elderly lady who just lost her husband of 60 years because we couldn’t do anything to save him.
Some days we go non-stop with minimal to zero sleep for 24 hours to transport “non-emergencies.”
We distract a child on a crash scene as we work to extricate him/her so that they don’t ask about their mother or father that has perished in the front seat.
We get woken up in the middle of the night, sometimes several times, and are still expected to report for our shift the next day.
We endlessly attempt to make entry to a fire that we probably have no business going into, to try and save a life.
We awake from nightmares of horrific calls that may linger with us for the rest of our lives.
We miss countless holidays for the good of the department, for the good of the people.
We lose friends because they don’t understand the demands of our jobs or why we need to rest and recharge on a day off rather than hang out.
We meet people at their lowest, hardest moments.
And through all of this, we are expected to be OK.
We are expected to be alert, to show up as needed. We are expected to keep it together, to always put another’s needs before our own.
No matter the circumstance, we are expected to be OK.
On Thursday, January 31st, we lost an Engineer/Paramedic, who was a vibrant, upbeat, and positive soul that was taken from us way too early. Much more than that, we lost a friend, a coworker, a son, and the many more titles he carried. There are questions that’ll never be answered and regrets of not knowing.
It’s known that suicide is an epidemic in the public safety field, but when it hits close to home, it causes you to question whether or not what you’re doing is worth what it’s doing to you.
Still, the 500+ employees that our department has, continue to, day in and day out, show up for work, lace up their boots and do all of these things in the midst of a staffing crisis. We’re not in this alone, we all fight battles that others know nothing about, but we have to look out for each other. Reach out. Call someone. Text someone. Message someone. Don’t fight these burdens alone. We may be expected to be OK, but the truth is: it’s OK to not be OK. We’re often seen as heroes, but we’re also human.