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One of the most important considerations in EMS today should be the mental health of our first responders and care providers. With traumatic situations at an all-time high, EMS providers, along with all uniformed first responders, are seeing an increase in horrific situations. The end result of these visual images, in addition to the pain and suffering of fellow human beings becomes the perfect recipe for PTSD.

The most significant contributor to PTSD is not only what you see and hear but also denial of the impact of these memories that become imprinted in our brains. Our EMT Courses teaches us the importance of CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) but is it really out there and readily available? And if it is, what about the social stigma related to our “strong & brave” going for mental help?

“We suffer what I call cultural brainwashing,” says Jeff Dill, a captain at the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District in Illinois. “Once we put this uniform on, we’re expected to act a certain way: Be strong. Don’t show weakness. Don’t be the weak link of the company – we can handle problems on our own…..We forget we’re human beings first….

Preventing burnout in the EMS System can also help with keeping PTSD at bay.

One study found that the top causes of emergency services burnout are:

  • Abuse of the 9-1-1 system
  • Extensive time shift length
  • Extended length of service
  • High call volume
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Lack of administrative support

If you find that you are experiencing any of the signs & symptoms below:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Irritability and anger
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Overuse of alcohol
  • Misuse of drugs

It might be time to take action. The newest weapon in the fight against PTSD is called First Response Resiliency Curriculum Training. Take some time and do a little research. It just might be time to invest in YOU. Find a program near you that offers CISM or First Response Resiliency Training. One of the best methods of releasing the trauma of PTSD is being able to talk to people who also work in the same field and have similar experiences. You are worth it!