Do you sometimes feel you have “too many balls in the air?” Work, family, friends, school, both as an Instructor and student, and all the other parts of life that add up. Being in public service is a great and noble profession; however, it can add extra stress to life. The intent of Life Safety Initiative #13 is to ensure both fire service members and those in their lives have access to support when life gets challenging.
Face it we see bad “stuff” happen. We also lose sleep, get into stressful situations and because of the type of people we are, do not want to let anyone down. Sometimes we take on more than we can chew. Compounded with the “stuff” we see, we need to let it out occasionally. The key though is to let it out in a positive way. Do not wait until it makes you explode or worse, take permanent actions.
Peer to peer support can work wonders. Find someone you can talk to, someone that understands what you may be going through. Look for an Officer or Senior Firefighter that you can confide in. Look for members of the community who could lend support. Fire Department Chaplains are trained in these matters, not just as religious leaders. You may consider asking about Employee Assistance Programs. Most employers use local resources such as hospitals for psychological and behavioral health. These programs can also help you to quit smoking or help with an alcohol problem.
What about after an event that may have shook you up? Talk about it. Talk about it with the crewmembers that were involved. Be open and honest. You may not even feel that it was bad right after the event; it may be days or weeks later. Just know you should never keep those emotions bottled up.
Support is out there. You are not alone. This is a brotherhood and you can turn to others for help. The stigma has always been in the asking. We will ask each other to help roof a house but feel uncomfortable about discussing issues that are happening under that roof.
LSI 13: Firefighters and their families must have access to counseling and psychological support.
My challenge to you, take Initiative 13 to your organizations leaders and ensure you and your family have access to support. If you are not satisfied with the answer, provide them with the information from http://www.lifesafetyinitiatives.com about LSI 13. We as the Fire Service must change our attitudes concerning behavioral health.
About the Author
Michigan Firefighter I&II, EMT-B, Fire Service Instructor, Company Officer I&II certified, Training Officer for Bertrand Township Fire Training Division, a Fire Technician and Instructor at DC Cook Nuclear Plant and Lead Advocate in Michigan for the EVERYONE GOES HOME program.