There is a movement currently going on about stigma and mental illness. In emergency services, if we admit to having a challenge, we do not want our brothers and sisters looking at us in a different light. Why? Are we not human? Who among us are perfect?
Part of the Stigma Free movement should be understanding your challenges, as well as other people's challenges. Sources indicate that "one-in-five Americans live with a mental health condition." Think about that for a minute; one-in-five. If you have five responders on a truck, one of them may have a mental health issue. Twenty percent of your department may have an issue. Are you or a member of your family or department one that is living with it, but did not seek any help? Are we judging others that have the courage to admit that they need some help?
Let's look at some things that might be in our stations. There may be a member who has lost someone so close to them that they will have a difficult time making it through the upcoming holidays because they are battling with depression as they grieve. There may be someone who is still having challenges because of a really bad call and they may have PTSD.
I know people who are bi-polar, have addictions, in major depression, had a stroke, etc. Should we just tell them to "suck it up, buttercup"? NO! How would you want to be treated? What if it was your child or family member?
Compassion goes a long way. Whatever mental issues they have does not identify them.
One of my best friends is blind. I do not think of him as "Blind Steve". He is just Steve and life goes on. He will tell me if he needs my assistance. Other times I let him know about a situation coming up that he may need to know about.
If a person in your department has a substance abuse challenge, are you going to just get rid of him from your department, or are you going to be a brother and come along side of them and help to lead them to a program that can assist them. The person may be a great responder BUT they have a challenge and need help.
It is perfectly alright to see a psychologist, psychiatrist, or doctor and get the help that is needed. If you have physical challenges, hopefully you go to the doctor and get help, so why not mental health? Why not take the course Mental Health First Aid?
'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' - Isaiah 41:10 Do not keep trying to make it on your own. God is with you during your struggles. Seek out the help that you, a family member, or member of service may need. Understand those who have the challenges. Let us remove the stigma in emergency services. Let us first get the help that we need and understand those who have mental health issues.
Let emergency services be Stigma Free. Let us get to the point where the stations are safe for all. Let us try to help those with mental health issues.
Happy Holidays and stay safe,