PTSD in First Responders

Trauma is a part of life.

It happens everyday to people across the world.

Here’s the thing with trauma. The brain is not equipped to handle it.

Working on Ambulance I came upon more than enough trauma, and it left it’s mark on me.

The fatalities are bad memories, but the ones with with severe injury that I could do little to help haunt me more. My entire career, combined with my BPD diagnosis, led me down the rabbit hole of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Symptoms of PTSD can include (as per the mayo clinic);

  • ;Intrusive memories and flashbacks to traumatic events
  • avoidance of the memories, or locations that trigger the memories
  • Negative changes to thinking and moods
  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • avoidance of the memories, or locations that trigger the memories
  • Negative changes to thinking and moods
  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions such as;
  • Being easily startled or frightened
    Always being on guard for danger
    Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
    Trouble sleeping
    Trouble concentrating
    Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
    Overwhelming guilt or shameIntrusive memories and flashbacks to traumatic events
  • Varying intensity of symptoms

PTSD is a significant mental health issue that affects many people, and veterans and first responders in particular.

The Canadian Centre for Suicide prevention collects statistics, and it shows that;

  • 2% of Canadians will experience PTSD in their lifetime (Van Amerigen, 2008)
  • First responders experience PTSD 2 times the rate of the average population
  • An estimated 22% of all paramedics will develop PTSD (Drewitz-Chesney, 2012)
  • 16 active and 15 retired RCMP officers died by suicide between 2006 and 2014
  • Between April and December 2014, 27 first responders died by suicide
  • In January, 2015 4 first responders died by suicide (Tema Conter, 2015)
  • Up to 22% of all paramedics will develop PTSD

It’s telling that over 1/5th of paramedics are estimated to develop PTSD over the course of their careers. This explains why burnout in the field is so high.

The statistics do help me realize a couple of things. Firstly, I’m not alone, despite the lies of the mind telling me otherwise.

Secondly, the statistics tell me that first responders are grossly under-prepared and under-equipped for the trauma that they will come across in their careers, and this needs to change.

First responders of all types deal with nightmare situations that the average person can’t even imagine.

The thing with PTSD, like any mental illness, is it doesn’t usually get better without treatment. Therapy, meds, and working through the trauma are important steps to recovery, and early treatment is vital in keeping first responders on the job, and something that is slowly beginning to change.

Kevin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s