Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) & First Responders

Post Traumatic Stress

13 Ways to Support Them

We often hear about Post Traumatic Stress, PTSD, that is experienced by our soldiers who serve in the military or victims of violent crimes or disasters but don’t often hear about compassion fatigue among first responders.

Law enforcement, medical personnel,  psychotherapists, emergency workers who assist with victims in crisis may develop their own Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms as an indirect result to the events they witness or a person’s suffering. This experience has been referred to as compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization or secondary traumatic stress.

Symptoms range from psychological issues such as dissociation, anger, anxiety, sleep disturbances, nightmares, to feeling powerless, exhaustion isolation, depression, numbness, heightened anxiety , loss of pleasure, intrusive imagery, hypersensitivity to emotionally charged stimuli, insensitivity to emotional material and  increased use of drugs and alcohol.

Having a loved one who is a first responder can be challenging. What is the best way we can show support for our loved ones who give so much to care for others?

I decided to go to the source. I have a client who is currently in law enforcement and has in the past been an EMT and firefighter. I think he gave the best advise and I want to thank him for sharing it.

Thank you Chris!

Wise words from a first responder

1. Understanding that we cannot always share our experiences.

2. Time and distance (from situation).

3. Be supportive.

4. Allow for decompression time, don’t bombard us when we walk through the front door.

5. Don’t expect us to run right back out to parties, dinners, events, etc…, after just coming off shift.

6. Try to understand the differences of day shift and night shift (different situations/different clientele and totally different calls for service.

7. Sometimes we see things that hit too close to home (ref. children and /or loved ones).

8. As tough as we appear and/or act, we still hurt and feel pain.

9. Don’t talk down to us, we are disrespected on a daily basis by residents, criminals, peers, supervisors,  etc…, and do not need to be disrespected by our families.

10. #9  works both ways, we don’t have the right to take our frustrations out on family and/or be disrespectful.

11. Allow for hobbies and time with friends (decompression time is important).

12. Don’t lecture us on our career choice and/or why we do the job, after we’ve been involved in a dangerous situation.

13. All we ask is that our families be there for us, a shoulder to lean on and/or cry, realize that we are not dealing with the most trustworthy or friendly people, be our rock, our stability and love us for who we are and never miss an opportunity to say I Love You. Because we’ll never know if today or tomorrow is our last day.

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About Jontie Hays

Jontie Hays  is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She graduated from Florida State University in 1993. As a private practitioner, she specializes in many areas including: Child sexual abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety, women’s health, couples and family counseling. She also is Supreme Court certified in family mediation and serves as a consultant to an international company, which provides onsite crisis response to the corporate community. She has served as an expert witness in family litigation involving children. She is a dedicated to assisting others in reaching their highest and most authentic selves. Through the use of integrative approach, Jontie embraces an attitude towards the practice of psychotherapy that affirms the inherent value of each individual. It is a unifying psychotherapy that responds appropriately and effectively to the person at the affective, behavioral, cognitive, and physiological levels of functioning, and addresses as well the spiritual dimension of life  St. Augustine, Florida is home to Jontie and her family. She has been married to her wonderful, handsome husband Jim for 22 years. They share two beautiful children Jackson and Jade.

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