Preshospital Mental Health
Mental health issues have been given, rightly so, a LOT of attention on social media. We see it in places like the Code Green Campaign, TED talks, a Mental Health First Aid card course, and in our trade magazines. Then there is Dansun Photos and art that show a lot of what we feel. Then we reach out to the assorted forums on Facebook and we talk through it there and maybe make light of it with Gallows Humor.
I recently had a question asked in one forum where there were a couple of pediatric calls, back to back, that were what many would say are definitely emotionally taxing, except this EMS professional didn’t feel shocked in any way about what had just transpired. He treated the situation clinically. He simply moved on to the next call.
He took to the forum to ask of his trusted compatriots if something was wrong with him. This struck a chord with me because just a few weeks ago, I also asked if there was something wrong with me. The statistical data that were available said that people with PTSD or other emotional issues, specifically related to the work we do, comprised a much smaller percentage of providers than either of us imagined.
The Social Media Paradigm
As we peak in to the information age, social media has given us a new set of realities and normalcy. Suddenly, you see issues being championed by multiple sources, whether it is LGBTQ+, racial issues, eco/environmental issues, or whatever, we as a society, are seeing much more than we would in the absence of social media. I’ve been in EMS since 1994, so I am approaching 23 years in this field. Before social media, there was only what we saw on Rescue 911 and TLC’s Paramedics. We talked it over in social cliques, or maybe at “choir practice”. We had a view of what was either within our realm of influence or what we learned about from the media.
Now, we add social media, and what we see is a growing community of people that have much in common, and we have an emotional outlet as well. In fact, social media is really giving us a myopic view of the world, so much so that my esteemed colleague and I came to ask what was wrong with us for not feeling depressed, emotionally fraught, or turning to alcohol or other substance addiction, for not being on antidepressants and anxiety meds, and for not staring down the barrel of a shotgun.
Social media is tricking us into believing that a vocal minority is the new norm. We should keep that in perspective when we peruse and partake in it. Personally, I haven’t held onto a traumatic experience for more than a couple days before I’m the same old me. That doesn’t mean I have Aspergers or am bereft of emotion, or even a sociopath. On the contrary, I am quite empathetic and emotions do hit me. I have great respect for the gravity of a situation and those it affects, like the patient, family, friends, and even bystanders. I just have a knack for leaving work at work. It’s clinical for me, not personal.
Know when to reach out
That said, never hesitate to reach out if you do have a concern about your mental health. It no longer is something we should lose our jobs and future advancement opportunities over. It isn’t a burden the family should bear with you for your choice of career. Even the “tough guys” need to find a nondestructive outlet for what they bottle up inside. If I had it all to do over again, I assure you I would take a lot more vacation time and spend more time with the family, especially on holidays.