Ambulance driver & blogger Ella Shaw (@diagnosislob) looks at the rising level of PTSD in the emergency services:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is very, very real. It's often associated with the military due to the sights they see and the environment they are in. However, it is becoming more and more common, or more and more freely admitted in the Police and the Ambulance services. I have it, or had it, I'm not really sure. I'm also not really sure if it is ever something that goes. Maybe it is and it just hasn't gone yet. Maybe it is gone and what is left will stay. I don't really know.
Despite what the PR department will say, there really is no provision within the emergency services for dealing with it. I tried accessing the 'free counselling' service that is offered and if anything just trying to make an appointment made me worse. Actually saying 'I have PTSD' was of huge importance, as cliche as it is. Not in the sense of standing in a circle and saying 'My name is....... and I have.....' but to admit that your mental health is affected is quite a big thing. Especially when until that point, you only ever had to deal with other people's mental health.
Admitting weaknesses isn't something that is done much in an environment full of black humour and bravado. You just play the game. Put on the brave face and only confide in the ones you think won't judge your weakness. Let's be honest, it doesn't give much confidence in a new crew mate when a simple head injury causes you a panic attack. There are triggers everywhere, it's about learning to spot them and avoid them. Sadly, this job doesn't let you avoid seeing words like 'fall from height'. These are the invisible wounds that PTSD leaves behind.
The problem we and police have is it doesn't stop. Maybe PTSD in the emergency services is more about timing rather that the event: a traumatic death or a dead child. Maybe the one memory that stays is protecting us. If every traumatic sight we saw affected us in the same way we simply wouldn't function.
There is very little time to process information. Very often I have written about seeing something which most people would see as probably the most traumatic event in their lifetime, only to go to another call five minutes later. Maybe this is why PTSD isn't going away, it is a fact of life and although some efforts are being made to treat it and make it more accepted, until it is fully embraced and tolerated by employers little will change.
Read more from Ella in her MAD Award nominated blog www.tryingmypatients.com