This is a topic that is near and dear to me…and yes, that sentence makes me sounds like a grandma. Let’s talk about First Responders and what NOT to say to them.
First, let’s go over what a “first responder” is (for my young readers). They’re medically trained professionals who are “first” on the scene of an emergency. We’re talking car wrecks, houses burning downs, plane crashes, finding someone dead in the canal and, oh yea, they’re also first on the scene when humans are rocked by natural disasters. Looking at you earthquakes, floods, fires and hurricanes. Of course there are many other possible scenarios that we could name but lets just end it with this; they’re the ones taking cats that are stuck in trees.
If you ask me, we should actually change their title to “emo superheroes”...get it?
Unfortunately, they don’t actually 'have' super powers. In fact, they’re really human just like you and I. They do, however, carry more than the average human. Being first to respond to tragic, unsafe, often bloody and high stress situations comes with a price. First Responders are more susceptible to having depression...in fact, they’re twice as likely to experience long term depression than the average Joe or Jane in America. Along with that fun fact, they have a higher rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and we could easily do a whole video on that topic alone. The scariest, though, is the suicide ideation they often have. Suicide ideation is when we think of being dead or existing no more and it happens when emotions are overwhelmed and feel too painful to carry any longer. This stat tops the charts, being 10 times higher than the general population. And don't get me started on addiction with this population!
This may be probably surprising and I’ll tell you why - First Responders ‘act’ like they’re bullet proof and why wouldn’t they? They’ve been treated like superhumans for decades when, in reality, they’ve been HUMANS dealing with a super amount of trauma.
The general population doesn’t realize this, which is why you’ll hear so many of their admirers say, “what’s the worst thing you’ve seen?” Or, “Have you ever had to shoot anyone?” Or, “what’s it like doing CPR on a child?”
When we ask these types of questions it allows trauma to re-surface. Remember, our brains store everything, good, bad and ugly. Asking a First Responder to remember tragic events they’ve witnessed is asking them to open up a wound that they’ve probably spent a lot of time trying to heal...UNLESS you have Tourettes Syndrome and then you get a pass. Otherwise, an entitled sense of curiosity doesn’t give us a golden ticket to hurt others.
“But Jed,” you say, “they are cool with it!” Actually, they’re not - they are really good at pretending, though - and compartmentalization can go a long way and even last for years but that’s another article.
Remember, they may act like superheroes but they’re human, just like you and I. So, don’t do it.
And for you First Responders reading this - thank you for doing everything in your power to keep us alive and well. I hope this article and the short video gives you the honor and respect you’ve earned. You can watch the video at https://youtu.be/JF7ydsqbHf4
Thanks for reading and until next time, awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC