Article on Building PTSD Resiliency and Prevention
For Health Care, Emergency Care, Rescue and Police Personnel
Work has been done towards treating patients with post-traumatic stress, for many years now. The aim is to identify personnel who need help, who are depressed, with addictions, etc. and thus help them.
The World Health Organization estimates there are 300 million men and women with depression in the world.
A study in the United States of 2017, confirmed that more firefighters have died by suicide, than in their work. This shows that the way we have been addressing this is not working. If we continue working when the problem is already there, it is already too late.
In many areas, work is already being done on prevention. They aim is to prevent illnesses, work or sports injuries, etc. If in other areas we are already working on prevention, why don´t we start working on stress management, building resilience and prevention in PTSD?
Why wait for people to develop different problems to try to treat them?
Many people have told us that post-traumatic stress cannot be prevented, that each person processes differently the way in which they deal with a stressful situation. It is true, but it is not true. It is true that each one processes differently, but the reality is that very few people have the tools to be able to process it in a way that is less harmful for their mental health. Example: If I ask a person to do an electrical installation, if that person does not know about the subject, he will not be able to do it correctly. So, if a person does not know how to handle what happens in stressful situations, it will surely make him feel suffering and frustration.
Health personnel, firefighters, emergency, police, dispatch and rescue workers suffer a lot of stress during their work, and since they do not have the tools, this leaves invisible injuries. These injuries lead these people to resort to addictions of all kinds, to try to cover those wounds. Many come to depression and some to suicide.
From childhood, during school and then during our higher education, we are taught things that can lead directly to post-traumatic stress. No ones teaches us the correct stress management techniques.
All this can be reduced, questioning and replacing old teachings, and having tools to learn how to handle these situations.
In the past 3 years, together with a multidisciplinary team composed of health care and emergency personnel, psychologists and therapists, we have been working on identifying the most important risk factors that lead to post-traumatic stress. By identifying which factors are most likely to lead to post-traumatic stress, we can begin to work on them to reduce the chances.
One of the most important risk factors is our belief that we are in our line of work to save lives. It may be implicit or explicit, but we are taught that, and it is reinforced during all our training. “Live saving techniques”, “with CPR you can save a life”, etc, etc. We constantly see in the news stories about people saving lives, so we are bombarded with that idea nearly every day.
The super hero idea is always on the back of our mind. Health care, firefighters, EMTs, medics, police, dispatch, etc are the closest image to super hero’s.
Since we are kids many of us wanted to be super hero’s, we played with super hero’s, watch super hero’s movies, and even dressed up as super hero’s. The idea of saving others has been in our mind for many many many years. Hence, a part of us got in this line of work, to try to accomplish this dream.
When we finish our training and start facing the ugly truth. We go out to do our work, and find out that many patients die. But part of us wants to be a super hero, and we were reinforced during our training that we were going to save lives. Hence, the impact is very hard.
If you listen to people talking, for sure you have heard and will keep hearing, people say: “he died on us” “the patient died on me”, or any other variation. If we analyze these phrases, what the person is saying, is that he has some responsibility on this death. We might not want to accept this truth, but it is the truth. You might be saying to yourself, “this is not true”. Well, that is a protection mechanism, so as not to suffer.
When you start questioning that you could have done something different, or that if the family could have called earlier you could have done more, or whatever comes to your mind, questioning the call and your actions, there is a high possibility you are feeling you are a little or a lot, responsible for the outcome. Let’s not confuse going over the call for quality improvement, rather than going over the call trying to change the outcome, the intention is the key.
Many people start feeling very sad, even depressed as soon as they have to deal with their first “loss”. I have even heard many people say “we lost him”. Why do you think this happens? Again, it has to do with their idea that they were there to save lives. If you lost somebody, you are implicitly saying it was your fault.
Very few people teach how to deal with death, or how to deal with high stressful situations. Yes, it is covered during our training, but does it actually teach us something, or is it just covering the syllabus? If the instructor or teacher doesn´t have the tools, how is he / she supposed to teach you how to deal with death or high stressful situations. Many have found “a way” of dealing with these things, but is that the most positive way, or is it just “putting it away”?
If you were taught to be cold hearted or tough in this line of work, it means you have been taught the old way, and that way has proven it doesn’t work.
We need to start working on the prevention side, building resilience and changing old ways into the new and more effective ways.
We cannot change the things we see in our line of work, but we CAN change how we react to what we see.
For the past 3 years we have been working on developing tools to teach people how to deal better with death and high stressful situations.
There are many old teachings that have set us up for failure, and we need to start changing them as soon as possible, so as to prevent more people from falling into addictions, depression PTSD or even suicide.
There is another way…
We offer different programs to help people learn the correct tools to deal deal with stress so it doesn't affect them in a negative way.
These seminars are offered both in English and Spanish.
Topics covered in these seminars:
- PTSD Prevention?
- Why have we chosen this line of work?
- We will cover different things we learnt from our parents, since childhood, that can lead to PTSD.
- The Ego, from the humanistic psychology, and how it affects us in a negative way.
- We will cover the different ways people see themselves in this line of work, and their expectations. Many of them can lead to PTSD.
- We will cover many things we have been taught during our training, that can lead to PTSD.
- Cold hearted, insensible, being tough… is this the way?
- We cannot change the things we see in our line of work, but we can change how we react to what we see.
- We will cover how some teaching styles can lead to PTSD.
- We will cover several tools that will help us deal how we react in stressful situations.
- We will cover how the interactions amongst our coworkers, can cause higher stressful situations.
- How to identify if yo have PTSD?
For the 6 hour seminars:
- We will offer different tools so that the participants can learn now to deal better with stressful situations.
- We will work with the participants so that they can identify how does their line of work affects them.
- We will cover some tools so as to reduce the impact of stressful situations, on the body.
- We will cover some habit changes, so as to reduce the impact of stressful situations.
These lectures have been offered in:
- EMS world Americas, Colombia - September 2017
- Northville, Michigan USA - Junio 2018
- Aeropuerto de Osorno, Chile - July 2018
- Bomberos de Puerto Montt - July 2018
- VI Expo Congreso Bomberos, Saltillo, Mexico - July 2018
- Reserva San Lorenzo, Saltillo, Mexico - July 2018
- Municipio de Escobar, Buenos Aires, Argentina - September 2018.
- EMS world Americas, Queretaro, Mexico - September 2018.
- Firefighters of Llanquihue, Chile - October 2018.
- Condor Base of Mendoza Police - October 2018.
- 3rd Mountain Medicine Seminar from Cerro Arriba, Osorno - Chile - December 2018.
- Euca, San Rafael, Mendoza - December 2018.
- Volunteer Firefighters Salto Las Rosas, Mendoza - December 2018.
Stress Management Post Traumatic Stress Prevention Specialist
Advanced Medical Emergency Technician
Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) - WMS
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