I wrote about the Code Green Campaign back in 2016 in my post about calling a code on our mental health. I was talking about how some of my “ghosts” haunt me, revisit me, remind me of some of the worst calls I’ve ever been on. It happens to me frequently. At night. During the day. When my mind wanders. When I run into an old partner. When I run the same type of call. When I’m training a new hire and they ask a question that reminds me of a patient with the same type of symptoms. I guess since I’ve been “doing this” for 15+ years, I’ve run enough calls that I’ve got more than a few bad memories stacked up inside my head, and some of them bubble up to the surface occasionally. Sometimes I can just shake it off. Sometimes they stick around, and I sit with it for a while and think about how the call went. How it made me feel then, and how it makes me feel now. Sometimes I think about what lessons I still carry with me as a result of the call, because I try to never let a “bad” call be in vain. A very dear mentor friend of mine told me that every death in the field should be a gift in some way to a field provider, that we should still be able to learn from it, and grow stronger as providers and be able to better care for patients and their family members as a result of having gone on that call, even if we weren’t able to have a positive outcome for that particular patient. I also write things down in journals, so I can look back and reflect on them. I talk to friends and coworkers. I talk to my family, sometimes more than they would like, I think. Probably most importantly, I talk to a therapist. Not as often as I should, but I have built a trusting relationship with a clinically trained therapist who specializes in working with public safety employees, and I know that I can reach out to her when needed, and that’s a valuable tool in my mental health toolbox. So why am I revisiting this topic again, today?
Because in the past month, I’ve had two coworkers commit suicide out of the blue. In fact, since I joined public safety, I think I’ve personally known more than a dozen who have killed themselves. I’ve spoken about them publicly and privately. I’ve written about them. Posted about them. Begged friends and coworkers to call, text, email, visit, smoke signal me any time, for any reason, rather than make that final decision. I would rather be woken up at 0300hrs and drive across the country to visit with a friend and be there for them than hear about another brother or sister who felt they couldn’t carry on alone, and took their life. Nobody in this industry, in this world, is truly alone. Sure, there are teams and professionals and agencies and workgroups and whatnot, but at the end of the day, there’s your partner, your shift mates, your lieutenants, captains, chiefs, supervisors, managers, brothers and sisters who will be left behind – mourning, questioning, wondering, aching. The trauma carries on and compounds and only leads to more pain and suffering and more trauma and more death and destruction and the cycle continues and nobody talks about it and we just keep dying and keep killing ourselves.
It just has got to stop. I’m tired of the little facebook profile pictures of badges with black lines over them. I’m tired of obituaries. I feel old, and sad, and worn out. I never imagined when I got into this field that I would experience SO MUCH death and pain and sadness on MY side of the job. I knew going in that I would see pain and suffering and death and illness in my patients and in the faces of their beloved family members. I just didn’t comprehend how much pain and suffering I would witness in the eyes of my fellow first responders.
If you read this post, if you follow this blog, if you know me as a person, please. Please. Know that you are loved. You mean something to everyone in your life. I will do everything in my power to help you with anything you are going through. Please keep going, please reach out.