Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Firefighters have always been believed to be big, bad and sturdy. Due to these expectations it can force these men and women to bottle up their emotions. It’s been proven that holding in your emotions hurts you more than expressing them and letting people know.
Eight in the morning on Sept. 17th the sun rose on a firefighter’s face on the Hobie Beach in Florida. He was dressed in his uniform, but wouldn’t make it to work that day. Shortly after 8 a.m. the local fire department was paged to this location. Only to find their colleague laying in the blood soaked sand with a hole in his head and a gun in his hand. Eleven days before a retired battalion chief took his life in L.A. at a local park. Why did these instances occur?
Firefighters and first responders see hell everyday. They respond to fires with people trapped inside and sometimes are forced to give up hope of getting someone out. EMTs watch people die tragic deaths everyday and police officers see their fair share too. It’s risk over gain and sometimes the risk is higher than the gain. It’s a sad and emotional thing to think of and if you keep it bottled inside it can kill you physically.
First responders need to swallow their pride and talk about what they’ve seen and get it all out. I’ve seen great firefighters and EMTs quit because the emotional stress killed them everyday. They tried to run away from it by quitting, but it still caught up with them. As firefighters we have to be ready and prepared for anything and everything. I’ve seen people with half sawed off faces from a chainsaw and I’ve heard cries from hopeless children trapped in a fully involved structure. The kids made it out, but I can still hear their cries to this day.
Luckily I had great men and women at my fire department that I could trust and knew I could talk to them about it. Expressing what you’ve seen doesn’t make it all go away, but you’ll feel a lot better knowing that people know and have experienced what you have. You’ll feel the comfort knowing they know what you do and that you aren’t going through this alone. Firefighters have a tight brotherhood and sisterhood. One great way to strengthen these relationships is sharing your experiences with your comrades.
Life is an uphill battle. It’s best not to go through it alone. Admit if you have a problem so you can get the help you need. More firefighters have died from their own hands than on the job. In 2015 a record 113 firefighters and paramedics took their own lives. All of them were investigated and all had something in common. All these men and women were fighting internal battles from PTSD and depression. They didn’t have anyone to talk to about what they were going through and kept it inside.
Firefighters and first responders are very brave and courageous people. They help the ones in need and never give up until the job is done, but sometimes they’re the ones that need help. I didn’t write this article so you can sob for us who struggle or feel sorry for us. I wrote this to raise awareness of PTSD in firefighters and to bring this problem to light.
If you ever feel yourself caught in a tough place and are having bad thoughts. Talk to the personnel at your fire department and see if you have a rehabilitation center you can contact. Please talk to someone or call the suicide prevention hotline. Your community needs you to be their hero. Extinguish the fire within yourself before it’s too late. Thank you.
“When you feel like giving up, just remember the reason why you’ve held on for so long.” -Unknown