Let’s face it, the human mind isn’t really supposed to be exposed to constant & repeated trauma. But when you serve in the emergency services (including the NHS), regardless of which service and in which country, then that’s exactly what happens.
We hear all of the time via our Facebook Page (Emergency Services Humour) from colleagues who are having a tough time coming to terms with what they have been repeatedly exposed to.
Of course, it is expected that during our life each of us will encounter some traumatic events at some point. And time can be a great healer when trying to come to terms with these events. But what if the time between each traumatic event is only a matter of days? or hours? Or even minutes?
I have seen and dealt with my fair share of traumatic events. Both from serving on a 999 response team in one of the busiest boroughs in London, and also from my time serving in the armed forces.
Even though it has been several years since I retired from the Metropolitan Police and the Armed Forces, I would say that no more than 1-3 days passes by without some sort of memory being flashed before me in my mind.
Sometimes the image is of a victim of a serious assault. Sometimes it’s of a dead body. Sometimes it’s of a whole family that had been murdered by sadistic criminals. In truth, I never know what image or when that image will all-of-a-sudden flash before me.
We each have our own way of dealing with the after-effects of being subjected to repeated traumatic events.
But what if you haven’t developed a coping mechanism yet? What if the images become more prominent. More regular, and more intense? What then? How are you expected to cope?
Father-of-four Dan Farnworth told the BBC’s Sophie Madden about a 999 call he attended in 2015 that completely changed his life.
He had been with North West Ambulance Service since 2004 as an emergency medical technician, but a callout to the scene of a murder of a child hit him hard.
“Before this happened, I thought I was immune to mental health issues – it would never affect me,” the 32-year-old shared with the BBC’s reporter.
At first he just felt low, but after about 24 hours he realised he was still struggling.
“I couldn’t shake the image of the child.”
They who often criticise the emergency services, have no idea about the job that we do/did. This is one of the reasons as to why we are so passionate about exposing the assaults inflicted upon our emergency services & NHS colleagues.
It hard enough having to deal with the constant trauma that emergency services personnel are exposed to, let alone having to deal with mindless thugs who vent their anger with life at those who are sworn in to protect the lives of even they who attack them.
Do I consider myself to have post traumatic stress? (I refuse to use the word ‘disorder’). Maybe…the incidents which I have dealt with, were certainly traumatic. And, after the events, I certainly still ‘see’ the images of what I have seen and dealt with – so I guess that would count as stress.
In reality, post-traumatic stress can creep up on you at any time.
Pondering what you have dealt with, and what you have seen, is a natural way of the human mind trying to rationalise events which defy ANY sense of rationalisation.
What does not help, is the fact that various Governments have stripped down our emergency services.
And talking of trying to make sense of irrational events, I still cannot understand why ANYONE would think that REDUCING the resources and personnel within the emergency services is in ANY way a ‘good’ idea.
How many people in Government who make these decisions, have actually served in the emergency services and/or armed forces? Because if they had, then they would NEVER cut the vital funding of our emergency services.
Try telling those who serve in the emergency that these reductions in resources were a good idea.
Take the men and women, as an example, who are in the Metropolitan Police’s Sexual Offences unit.
Not only are they being exposed to the after-effects of trying to help people who have been the victim of heinous & tragic crimes, but they are also having to manage anywhere from between 25-35 crime reports EACH.
Thats (at least) 25-35 victims. Thats (at least) 25-35 suspects. Not to mention the mountains upon mountains of evidence & paperwork.
How can ANYONE expect Police Officers working in units such as these to be able to offer the service that the victims deserve? And how can ANYONE expect that the Police Officers in the Sexual Offences teams won’t end up going home and taking the emotional burden of trying to help victims of sexual assaults with them?
You only have to look at the amount of people in the emergency services who are being signed off with stress to realise the real effect of these common-sense-defying cutbacks.
But what’s the answer?
If only it were that simple…however, BOLSTERING the resources of our emergency services would be a good start. Offering better ‘wellbeing’ services for the emergency services would also help to potentially alleviate the effects of doing a job that only a few are brave enough to sign up for.
Ensuring that repeat offenders STAY locked up, is also a good idea. Whether they stay locked up in a prison, or whether they stay locked up in a secure community does not matter. What matters, is that the 2-3% of individuals who are responsible for over 70% of crime, stay OUT of a decent and hardworking society.
One of the reasons why we have chosen to support Minds’ #OurBlueLight project, is that we believe passionately that anyone who has served under a blue light should be able to access assistance as-and-when they need it.
There is no shame in asking for assistance. And we hope that by highlighting the work of the #OurBlueLight project, then more and more colleagues will reach out during their moment of need.
To find out more about how we are helping to raise money for Minds’ #OurBlueLight, CLICK HERE
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