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EMS Mental Health Support

We are facing a crisis in our Emergency Medical Services support that each one of us needs to pay attention to.

Ever wonder how our Emergency workers are able to keep calm and their presence of mind when they are called to scenes of devastation and horror? These workers are Police, Paramedics, Fire fighters, military men and women, front-line health care workers, emergency social work and others to whom we turn for help, reassurance and positive resolution. In a time when our thoughts become vacant and we perhaps suffer unbearable pain, these workers rush in, often risking their lives to save ours.
Stress initiates the use of the amygdala part of the brain which is often called the ‘primitive’ brain because it is the seat of our survival in emergencies. It puts the human body into fight, flight or freeze mode. Blood that would normally be sent to the Frontal Cortex, or organizational part of the brain, is sent to the arms and legs so that in an emergency situation we are able to either fight our way out; flee the source of the danger; or freeze as a form of protection. If you have ever been in danger such as a car accident, you will be able to recall the moment when the physical accident is over and you sit there unable to think clearly, but often developing the shakes etc. signaling the body going into shock as well as the extra blood and adrenalin and thought direction from the amygdala giving you the survival option to fight, flee or freeze. Logical thought seems to escape you at such times.
It is at these times that we need someone to think for us; to help us. Our EMS worker is that person in whom we place our trust and often our very lives. They have been trained so strictly and rigidly with protocols to follow that they are almost initially acting as automatons. This means their training ‘kicks in’ no matter what situation they might be facing. However, they are also human, and although we praise and honour them for often superhuman efforts on our behalf, there when we needed them, we, the public and Governments on all levels, ignore them when chronic stress from this work, results in PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an insidious pandemic affecting these workers. We have recently heard of the elevated rates of suicide among the EMS workers and military as well as increased incidents of violence, perhaps within a military family as the soldier returns with PTSD. I have been appalled to hear that these brave men and women are feeling stigmatized because they have reached an inability to ‘handle’ their own mental health issues. The stigma should lay at the door of the Public and Government for denying them easy and free access to appropriate mental health care.
Imagine that you are a Paramedic and you are called to the scene of a horrific car crash involving a family including a small child. Perhaps there is death at the scene, and a great deal of blood and horror. The Paramedic performs the protocols needed; removes victims to the nearest Hospital Emergency ward, and then returns to complete their paperwork on the incident. Perhaps also they are then called out to another emergency. This scenario can be repeated a few times before they are off shift and able to go home to their own life. Then what? Each crisis has a mental imprint upon the Paramedic as well as an adrenalin rush in the course of performing their duties. With several incidents in one shift, that stress is compounded and with several shifts in a week, the stress can become chronic and lead to PTSD.
PTSD can be characterized by the following:
1) The person may relive an event through nightmares or flashbacks, or the person can have very strong mental and physical reactions when reminded of an event.
2) The person may avoid activities, thoughts, feelings and conversations that remind them of the traumatic event or events, or might be unable to remember details about the event, or perhaps feels emotionally numb and detached from the present moment.
3) The person may lose interest in important activities, feels alone, is unable to express or experience normal emotions or feels there is nothing to look forward to.
4) Finally, perhaps a person can never really relax, has trouble sleeping, feels irritable, overreacts when startled, can’t concentrate, feels angry and tries to be on guard at all times.

These are just a few characteristics of PTSD but more continue to evolve as it garners more attention and awareness.
It is important for us to provide support and on-going care, awareness, attention and funding and to provide tools with which to alleviate their stress and provide immediate stress relief and intervention before the stress builds to chronic and PTSD level.
Each individual can be empowered if provided with mental health training and 24/7 support funded through Governments at all levels. This is the time to consider alternatives that have been proven effective that perhaps can be implemented as an adjunct to main stream medicine. In my practice I have effectively treated chronic stress with training in Emotional Freedom Technique…a sort of needleless acupuncture that is easy, portable and extremely empowering for the individual. Once trained, EFT can be employed to intervene when stress symptoms flare and thus reduce and often eliminate the anxiety that can lead rapidly to panic. I have successfully ‘cleared’ mental imprints such as that first scene attended by the paramedic the details of which can still vividly be recalled after 25 years. Most important to me, is the fact that the individual is given the tools to help him/herself…where and when they need it.
Hypnosis is also an excellent method of reprogramming/retraining the mind away from stress, anxiety, and insomnia providing much needed reassurance and confidence. Since the individual is always in control and hypnosis as an altered state of lowering brainwave frequency, can guide the individual into deep relaxation and deep restful sleep.
The current need is great and if not addressed and funded for these warriors, will only continue to escalate, and it will be YOU whom their suffering might one day touch.  They have our back, but do we have theirs???
I applaud the efforts of www.ivegotyourback911.com and ask you to support them in their efforts to get the word out and in assisting their fellow workers and families to be able to live positive, healthy lives beyond the job.

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