My Battle With PTSD | Written By A Paramedic
Here at Emergency Services News, we are passionate about giving members of the emergency services and NHS – both past and present – a channel through which they can share their own experiences with the general public and their colleagues.
The reason for this is twofold;
Firstly, by sharing these stories, then we hope that the public will get an idea of the pressure facing frontline (including 999 call centre staff) emergency services personnel.
If you follow your local ambulance Trust on social media, then you probably would have seen a post asking you to ensure that you only use the 999 system in an emergency.
Wasting the time of the emergency services has an enormous knock-on effect on their workload, and they are often sent to 999 calls which are not emergencies because the call handlers have been given incorrect information during the 999 call.
We hear all too often from sources within the ambulance service who tell us about calls which have been made by patients where symptoms have been intentionally exaggerated just so the caller can be conveyed to A&E by ambulance.
In reality, this sort of deliberate exaggeration often leads to increased delays for the patient.
Secondly, we hope that by sharing these accounts, as distressing as they may be, then more emergency services and NHS staff will talk about their own mental health.
By talking about the battles which may be going on in your mind, then you are helping yourself to process the thoughts and emotions which could be racing through your head.
Our emergency services dedicate their lives to saving the lives of others.
We owe it to them to make sure that we also look after them.
Written by a serving paramedic:
“In light of the recent tragic news of 2 paramedics and one dispatcher taking their own lives, it has got me reflecting on my past.
“I feel now more than ever; it is essential to remember the different pressures that different roles face.
“Dispatchers are often managing 30+ jobs while managing 20+ crews.
“Yet they’re expected to know every detail about every job off by hand and if they don’t then crews will often question the dispatcher and put them on the spot causing more stress.
“The stress that comes with doing back to back general broadcasts while trying to stand crews down for their meal break, find the key safe number for that crew that can’t get into a property and phone back a patient who isn’t answering the door is unbelievable.
“Then if that C1 didn’t get a response in the target time, the dispatcher then has to explain to the DTL why it didn’t happen.
“Some jobs stick with dispatchers the same way that some situations stick with crews.
“I will always remember one job where a patient died because I couldn’t get an ambulance to them in time, purely because we were unable to get an accurate address.
“Crews are under a completely different type of stress.
“One job at a time is often easier to manage, but if the job is in any way complicated, then it puts a massive amount of pressure on the crew to make the correct decision regardless of how stressful the situation is.
“Watching someone in there last moments of life and seeing families fall apart as they see their loved one pass doesn’t get any easier.
“Then there’s the daily MDT message of only getting a 30-minute break; it’s so disheartening especially if there have been any physically or mentally tiring jobs.
“Driving to and from jobs on blue lights is tiring; the concentration that is required and the stress of other drivers doing weird and wonderful things.
“Then, the end of the shift comes… Four hours late off, it’s not unusual, but it doesn’t get any easier, and the stress that it brings isn’t worth the overtime.
“Everyone is under different stresses, and some cope better than others.
“Here is my brief story:
“In 2017, I found myself in a very dark place, I was under a lot of stress at work, had family problems, and I had just come out of an abusive relationship.
“I was still working and kept my problems to myself; I had my coping strategies, but they weren’t healthy.
“My life consisted of working, self-harming and taking overdoses, I was deemed to be high risk, I hid my cuts, and I hid my feeling.
“This went on until I hit rock bottom and took one overdose too many.
“I was suicidal and completely empty; I didn’t have the strength to keep fighting, but I was lucky; there were three colleagues in particular that had my back and probably saved my life.
“The morning I took my last overdose I somehow managed to contact a colleague before I got too unwell and they drove to where I was and took me to hospital.
“my next memory was waking up in a hospital bed the next day.
“I somehow didn’t have any lasting damage, didn’t get sectioned and didn’t lose my job.
“This was my turning point.
“My last overdose left me embarrassed and ashamed, but over time I realised that the three people that helped me didn’t see me any differently, and my colleagues who didn’t know anything treated me the same as always.
“Over about twelve months, I slowly recovered, I received a lot of support from colleagues and the Trust, but this was only because I was eventually honest about how I felt.
“A mixture of medication and various psychological therapies helped me to become me again.
“I was have been diagnosed with PTSD, but I have tried hard not to let it rule my life, my PTSD is a part of me, but I am now stable and happy.
“I still have days when I feel a bit low, but I healthily manage my feelings, I no longer self-harm or take overdoses.
“I love my job, even though it can be stressful, and it can trigger my emotions.
“I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed by my past; it has made me the person I am today.
“I have never shared my story before as it is personal to me, but I feel that now is the right time to share a brief summary of my journey from the end of my dark days to the beginning of my new life.
“I hope that this might give some hope to even one person who is struggling or suicidal.
“It is never too late to ask for help, and no one should ever feel ashamed for needing help.
“When I hit rock bottom it was my green family that saved me not my real family”.
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