We do not have our own chaplain. The sheriff's office has a few but they're training is more to respond to families in need. The large city FD has a few volunteers that wanted to help out and talk to members who are in need of their services and we have access to them through our internal peer support group but that would be the only way we would come in contact with them.Do folks on this forum speak with fire/police chaplains with any regularity?
I agree. We had a call on another shift and I remember him trying to have a debrief of sorts with the department but that crew wasn't interested. I think that we had a more open attitude about hard cases than most departments, but it still wasn't at a healthy level.I suspect that they would need to be present and visible on a regular basis to be of any meaningful benefit.
That sounds better than having just a chaplain or any other person designated as the "debriefer." I think mental health is sort of like quality assurance; everyone needs to be involved to make it happen.We have tons of Fire Chaplains, one retired Paramedic that is now our primary M1 Chaplain and a very good "Peer Support Officer" program. In the last 5-10 years we have done a complete 180 in regards to how we deal with PTS and bad calls in general. We have First Responder Mental Health as a module in our Training requirements done on a yearly basis and we start addressing this stuff in recruit school, EMT Classes and at Paramedic Training at Harborview.
It's all about changing our culture, it's tough but very doable. When I started in this business you either hacked it or you didn't. Anyone that had problems was basically looked at as weak and was pretty much shunned by their peers. We still have a LONG way to go. I have lost too many friends over the years. We have access to fulltime experts now at my service. We are encouraged to go see a professional to "check in" every few months. We have started to look at it the way we should have been doing it all along. You go get an annual check up from your doctor for your physical well being, so you should also go get a mental "checkup" at least a few times a year as well. If we have a really bad call now we are giving options anywhere form going directly to see our specialist together as a crew or individually, take a break for a bit, or go home with pay. We recognize the calls that ruin people now and we try to do something about it. We have anonymous numbers that you can use to reach out for help 24-7. Our Union and employer have also recognized this as an OJI now and treat it as such.That sounds better than having just a chaplain or any other person designated as the "debriefer." I think mental health is sort of like quality assurance; everyone needs to be involved to make it happen.
When I became a sworn police chaplain, I had to unexpectedly confront about 35 years of continuous exposure to really crappy stuff. It sounds trite, but the longer a person spends in the "bad day" business, the more accumulation of baggage that occurs. People get fixated on that one or two bad calls, but the real toll is insidious and does tremendous damage to family life. Lot's to say there, but suffice to say, BS'ing over beers does not cut it...talk to somebody....My 1st department (911 Volunteer FD) had a local minister that was our chaplain, he actually went to Fire and EMT-B class and ran with us; he worked well as a chaplain, both for members and families of patients. He also had a list of church leaders for all denominations in our coverage area, so if he was called for a cardiac arrest he could find out what religion they were and call their church reps for the family.
It is hard to find counselors that truly understand what 1st responders go through when you do find them they get overwhelmed sometimes.
When I worked 911 and even a busy private service and I could talk to co-workers I never had problems with stress on the job (stress at home was a different story). I could talk and destress with co-workers.
When I got a job where it was slow and very few co-workers had really worked a busy service that is when I started having problems and I didn't have anyone I could talk to; and old stress hit me. and I started having problems.
I actually got a PT job working where it was busier and I got runs and had people I could talk with again.