Firefighters, police officers, EMT’s often go unrecognized for the life-saving work they do to protect their communities. When hearing about things such as fires and car accidents in most media outlets, you may hear or see a basic overview, but very rarely do you see every aspect of the emergency services on the scenes. Getting an up-close view of emergency services in action is important to me, as it shows the dedication, emotion and hard-work of first responders that often doesn’t get as much attention as it should. In addition to all this, there is a mental health aspect that often goes un-noticed in the world of first responders.
Most fire departments, especially in rural areas, are 100 percent volunteer. When the fire department gets dispatched for a call, members drop what they are doing, leaving family and friends on any day and at any time, including holidays, to risk their lives to help others.
Knowing the risks, first responders put their lives on the line to help others. While others are running away from danger, first responders are running directly towards it.
In the volunteer community, volunteering is often referred to as “neighbors helping neighbors.”
First responders often push themselves to their limits trying to help others and serve their community.
Since first responders are at the scenes of the worst day in someone’s life, they see and hear things on any given day that most will never experience throughout their entire lifetime. Some of that includes seeing lots of blood, severely injured people, mangled bodies, hearing the screams of pain and cries for help.
On scenes where somebody loses their life, first responders often shift the blame on themselves. They may feel as if there was something they didn’t do or something more they could have done to help save the person. Cmdr. Adam Hornick of the Bethlehem Police Department says it’s important that they know they did everything in their power to save the person. “You’re not just saying it to patronize them, you’re saying it because it’s true,” he said while discussing mental health among first responders.
While putting on a straight face to do their job and help others, they may often push aside things that may be bothering them. “We’re not super-heroes and we’re not super-people,” said Commissioner Joe Catalano of the Elsmere Fire Department while talking about mental health among first responders. “We have emotions and feelings just like everybody else.”
Those that work tirelessly around the clock to help save lives typically don’t ask for anything in return.
First responders are there when others are experiencing the worst time in their lives. Some of that feeling often can be transferred to the first responder, especially if it involves children and they are a parent themselves. “It’s a lot different when you’re dealing with a traumatic call like a dead child or a dead infant when you don’t have children,” said Hornick. “But as a first responder, when you actually have children or children that are that same age or similar age, that affects you differently.”
Those that aid others in their time of need are often hiding struggles of their own caused by things that they’ve heard and seen while helping others in their worst.
While being around first responders for a long period of time, you begin to see how certain situations and traumatic events affect certain people. Those you see taking heroic actions, helping others and doing the best they can to save lives, can often be impacted themselves and hold those emotions in. First responders put their lives on the line for others, but those heroic actions sometimes come with side effects that many may not be aware of.