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Behavioral Health in the Fire Service
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By Captain Jane Perkins
August 8, 2018

Chief Jared Meeker of Lake Shore Fire District in Greece, New York shared a personal story of pain and healing in his presentation last night at Watch Hill Fire. In attendance were more than 50 firefighters from several departments throughout the state, as well as their family members. He explained that his experience in the fire service is not uncommon. Firefighters and EMTs are constantly exposed to scenes and situations that are beyond the comprehension and coping capability of the average person. As first responders, we see, hear, and smell what no human being should ever have to experience. Sadly, these terrifying moments and traumatic events live on in our minds, and most firefighters will tell you, “If only my mind could forget what my eyes have seen.”

Unfortunately, most firefighters don't ever talk about these stressful situations, especially at home with their families. Day-to-day stressors like work, family, and bills build up over time and fill a figurative "stress bucket" that lives in our mind. The chief said it is important to note that not everyone's bucket is the same size and traumatic events impact individuals differently, but for many of us, we reach a point where our stress buckets can no longer hold all that we have experienced, and it will start to overflow.

Chief Meeker urged his audience to recognize that Cumulative Stress Overload and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms are real and found throughout the fire service. He also encouraged us to recognize the signs and symptoms so that we can help our own. Most importantly, Chief Meeker advised that we not be too proud or embarrassed to seek help. After all, "To the world you may be just one person, but to one person may be the world."

The topic was Size up for Behavioral Health for Firefighters and EMTs.
The topic was Size up for Behavioral Health for Firefighters and EMTs.
Chief Jared Meeker of Lake Shore Fire Department presents to firefighters and families.
Chief Jared Meeker of Lake Shore Fire Department presents to firefighters and families.
 

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