People working in emergency services often have difficulty balancing their work life and their home life. First responders often feel as though they are “married to the job” because they end up spending more time with the people they work with than they often have the chance to spend with their own families.
First responders, especially police officers, are also bombarded by a great deal of public scrutiny and criticism. Police officers operate in a daily “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” environment because of the false narrative that all police officers are racist and have a vendetta against certain groups of people.
Emergency services personnel also believe that they should be able to control the outcomes of the calls they respond to. As hard as we may try, we can’t win every battle, and sometimes the bad guy is simply going to get away. That person whose life we’re trying to save with CPR isn’t going to make it. Yet we often place excessively high expectations of success on ourselves and consider ourselves a failure if we don’t win every time.
There is also the issue of sleep deprivation, especially as it relates to shift work. I can tell you first-hand that emergency services personnel do not get enough sleep, and that it takes a heavy toll on them physically as well as mentally and emotionally. How many times have you heard one say, “I’m sorry – I’m just tired.” They’re tired because they don’t rest enough, but the self-imposed expectations as well as the demands for overtime because of inadequate staffing or because of financial obligations that need to be met make it so they have to work too much and not often sleep enough.
You might also overhear someone in emergency services say something like, “We don’t need this stress stuff!” For many first responders, taking advantage of any program or service to help them manage the stresses they face, either on a daily basis or as the result of a critical incident, would only be a sign of weakness. They’ve been told to “suck it up, buttercup,” and that “if they can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen;” hence, they simply claim that they don’t need it, and convince themselves that they’ll be fine without it.
We also know that there are issues associated with licensed mental health professionals that may also contribute to the stigma associated with reaching out for help. What do we mean by that? Well, we’ll have the chance to explore that in a little more detail in the next article in this series. Meanwhile, if you have questions or just need to chat, feel free to reach out to us at m.me/callforbackup.org/.