We (the admins of Emergency Services Humour) are often perplexed when people send us in messages via our Facebook page, stating that they find a post “offensive”. It is as if people think that the genre of ‘humour’ associated with the emergency services is going to be ‘pink and fluffy’ one; negative.
Maybe this misconception is due, in part, to the sterile and ‘vanilla’ image that Senior Management Teams across the country and indeed across the Globe (as we have some international Admins on the team) want to project into the minds of those who we serve.
I think that everybody already knows that our emergency services are amongst the most professional out there. Whenever you are in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand or South Africa, you know that when calling the emergency services, you are going to have a professional response to your crisis. This is something that we should be immensely proud of.
But what about the people behind the uniform? The legions of dedicated men and women who, on a daily basis, endure the sights and scenarios which most people (including many of those in Government) will NEVER see. How do you suppose that these brave men and women cope with the sights and horrors which they see time and time again?
Having served in the Armed Forces as well as in the Emergency Services, I should also point out, that this article also applies to the brave men and women in the armed forces. There is a reason why you find that a lot of ex-Forces join the emergency services: the camaraderie, the banter and, of course, the humour (but not the pay!).
In my own experience, I think that the mind develops a coping mechanism for dealing with the type of incidents which most people will only ever see on the news. And this, ladies and gentleman, is commonly referred to as the dark sense of humour.
I once remember responding to a stabbing in the busy inner London Borough where I used to work. A male, in his mid-twenties, had been stabbed at least three times. in the abdomen. He had managed to get home and call 999. His family were also at home with the male whilst he waited for us to arrive.
My colleague and I were the first on scene. He was conscious when we arrived, but clearly he was in a bad way. We administered first aid to the male, and within a few minutes our oppos (colleagues) from the London Ambulance Service turned up.
The single-crewed Paramedic who arrived started to treat the male, and he was stabilised (at least, to my untrained medical eye, he looked as if he was stabilised).
Whilst we were waiting for the Ambulance to turn up, we started to chat to the Paramedic (as we often do at calls). We shared a joke (I can’t remember what it was) that made the three of us laugh (discreetly). Not a ‘LOL’ laugh, but a covert laugh.
The mother of the male who had been stabbed asked us (quite rightly) what we were laughing at? I then tried to explain, that it was nothing to do with her son, but that we were recounting events at a previous call, which then had made us laugh. She looked perplexed.
I explained to the mother, that humour is often how we, in the emergency services, can process the never-ending trauma that we (as well as Prison Officer/medical staff) are subjected to on a daily basis. I think that she understood, but I also think that our timing was, albeit not intentional, not wholly appropriate. Lessons were learned.
But I have also been at the other end of the aforementioned scenario; the family end.
When my Grandad, God rest his Soul, passed away at his home a couple of years ago, my Family and I rushed to his address as soon as we found out. My Nan (who has also since passed away) was disabled and could not get out of her bed on her own.
She had awoken that morning, and realised that my Grandad, who was in the next room, was not responding to her calls. So she managed to pick up her mobile phone, and call 999. When I arrived at my Grandparents house, the Police were still there, but the Ambulance had since left.
When my Aunt arrived, she was inconsolable. Whilst trying to comfort my Aunt, I noticed that one of the Police Officers rolled her eyes to her colleague. I guess it was because of how upset my Aunt was.
She saw that I had seen her rolling her eyes, and I think that she was a tad embarrassed. But I was not offended or upset, because I knew that every member of the emergency services, deals with this kind of thing in their own way. It wasn’t personal, and I knew that.
Had I of not served in the emergency services myself, then yes, I may have been highly offended by the sight of the Police Officer rolling her eyes in response to my Aunts wailing cries, spurned on by our families loss. But I was not offended. Who I am to judge how others deal with these kind of emotionally charged situations? The Police Officer had never met any of my family, so there was no emotional connection there.
Like me, in the situation that I had found myself in with the male who had been stabbed (who did survive by the way), she had just miscalculated the timing of her reaction in front of my family. It happens. We are all human.
I think that it is important to keep in mind, that unless you have served in the emergency services/armed forces/health care sector, then chances are that you have not been exposed to repeated traumatic incidents. And therefore, you cannot comprehend how the mind develops, in its own unique way, a coping mechanism for dealing with incidents which most people will only ever read about.
Don’t get me wrong, being in the emergency services does not mean that you are immune to the effect and exposure of scenes of upset, violence, tragedy and wrongdoing.
I remember arresting a guy once, for theft of a motor vehicle. It turned out that the guy who I arrested (who was driving the stolen car) had learning difficulties, and his bastard of a brother had completely stitched him up.
When I closed his cell door, having booked him into custody, he started crying. This, in turn, made me well-up (smokey room syndrome) and so I went and made him a cup of tea, and sat chatting to him in his cell for 20 minutes to try and reassure him. It worked.
Ultimately, those of us whom have served in the emergency services, often develop a dark sense of humour not because we have consciously decided to develop one, but because our self-preservation wants us to develop a means of releasing the myriad of emotions which will inevitably build up.
So if you see a post on our page that offends you, that same post might also release some of the tension that has built up in an oppo. We know that our posts have this effect of releasing tension amongst our large readership, because we get messages from emergency services personnel all of the time confirming just that.
Written by one of the (many) Admins of Emergency Services Humour, who is also a contributor and guest Editor of our fortnightly satirical eMagazine, S**ts & Giggles. CLICK HERE in order to sign up to this £1 / €1 / $1 per month eMagazine. ALL are welcome to subscribe, regardless of nationality and regardless of whether or not you have served.
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This explains why my daughters and wife do not understand my humour. 30 years in the fire brigade has shaped me into this way of trying to see light of a dark moment. “What the he’ll are you talking about dad” referring to my reply to a Face book posting. Often called a racist by them after ‘tongue in cheek’ comments about an individual, not because of his ethnic background but because of what he did. Some of my best friends in the job are foreign or of a different skin colour. I trusted them with my life as they did theirs in times of need in very difficult circumstances, where training and common sense would keep us safe.
A very good article that the general.public should see.
How would the critics cope with circumstances they could not remotely imagine, like after having tried to talk to someone out of suicide through a closed door, making an entry and finding that he had already put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. his head looking like an empty bowl with blood and brains scattered all over the place. Or knocking at a door and scrounging a bucket of hot soapy water to swill away the blood and brains of one of their neighbours who had fallen five floors to their death. Or having to convey a partially decomposed body to the morgue and having to sweep the maggots out of the back of the vehicle and try and clear the smell by washing everything in disinfectant, then having to sweep the slab and floor clear of maggots after the P.M.? I could go on. I was just one of thousands of ‘Emergency Services’ personnel, each one of us having so many similar stories to tell and some of whom still suffer PTSD to this day as the result. Talking about it with your colleagues helps to ‘spread the load’ and if ‘Dark humour’ helps, then use it!
I’m with the emergency services I have often thought about this we consume all the hate vicious bitter and sad as professional people we are the sin eater but we must release that in dark, humour or something else without it taking to much of your own soul to survive just my reflections
It is also an unfortunate fact that we don’t really understand why humans laugh and what physiological function it performs…..it does release oxytocin, which in turn seems to help relieve stress….hence why WE need to do this. It is hardly pleasant having people suffering and dying in front of you, in spite of your best efforts….without this release we would probably be less effective. The only people who don’t get this are those whose life is blessed by the ability to waft along and never experience this type of stress (eg. Career manager box-tickers, clipboard carriers and seat polishers) who interpret this as callousness. They will never get it and we will always have some idiot complain….c’est la guerre.
I can agree with almost everything here, I served as “screw” for kids and adults – a conversation ender socially – the abuse of servicing officers, paramedics should have legislation to deal adequately with offenders. In the historic sense, kill and you will be killed legally, but that is the extreme. The message to society because central government has ripped out the signals that would stop such behavior. The thugs know it and the incoming message is kick them while they are down. Thats the message that our forces, police, service medical staff and firemen are not worthy we don’t care how they are abused. Even the pay increase for Officers has become disappointingly a political snatch back – they aren’t have 3 they can have 2 what message does that send. The Home Secretary told Parliament that they want a “compliant” state so their chosen method for us all is fear. Its high time this political system was dumped in favour of people who know what they are doing.