Firefighters with post traumatic stress disorder are coming out of the woodwork to sort of speak. Meaning, it is no longer a dirty little secret with working professionals these days. It is a legitimate injury, and mostly looked as an industrial accident if in the workplace. The sad part is not all states within our union recognize post traumatic stress. California, for an example is one that does and will go to the extremes to get people help they need. Most of the time people receive the much needed help and if they do not return to work they’re retired on a permanently long term disability retirement. Firefighters are no exception to the rule and doctors are seeing more and more firefighters being diagnosed with post traumatic stress than ever before. We have removed the “D” letter for “disorder” out of the equation so people are not labeled with a disorder. Firefighters are heavily trained and must be educated today in the year 2015 to handle major emergencies in our society. Our society is full of energy plants, chemical, warfare and domestic plants where the firefighter must be familiar with biochemicals and the like in order to protect themselves and others.
Remember, firefighters are people too and they must be able to protect themselves. Many firefighters suffer injuries and are taken to area hospitals for treatment nearly everyday. They are on the front lines fighting fires, helping people who are stuck in trees, helping people in car crashes, helping people who have been electrocuted, helping people who are chocking to death, helping people who have been stabbed, helping people who have been shot, helping little kids who have tummy aches and helping grandma because they have fallen and can’t get up. The things I mentioned are only a few things firefighters do on a daily basis. Yes, they do have down time and yes we do see them buying groceries at the store. But how fun! We see our pretty shiny firetrucks riding around town or the big cities with our firefighters ready for action. However, there are times they must spring into action at any given time, even we are sleeping they are working to protect us. The night shift can be people who are partying and overdosing on drugs where the fighter responds and administers “narcan” to revive them or they could just be drunk either way the firefighters are there to help.
Interestingly enough, as tough as our firefighters are they still have feelings and do suffer from major stress. Some firefighters resort to alcohol and or drugs to self medicate to ease the pain. More and more, we are seeing firefighters and police officers getting medical marijuana cards and consuming marijuana on their off days due to stress and anxiety. Is it wrong or something to be shameful for? Absolutely not, it is legal on the state level in at least 18 states in the union and legal as recreational marijuana in at least 3 states. Yes, it is currently illegal on the federal level since it is currently labeled as a schedule 1 drug, however, that is about to change. There is work right now within the legislature to have it reversed and cannabis be take off the schedule. But the point here is, firefighters are suffering from post traumatic stress due to the violence they are enduring on the job. There is really no way to stop it, but the fire departments should offer counseling teams, and peer support in order to help the firefighters do what they do best and that is to survive. Without communication we do not have a relationship, and when firefighters need someone to talk to who is professional then we should keep the door open. Look in the state of California, if a firefighter goes off work on a workers compensation claim of temporary post traumatic stress he/she can be off up to one year with pay and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Meaning, the person has the opportunity to get help and to get better over time, if not then a retirement process begins. Firefighters often see life and death regularly and to shut those thoughts out is not as easy as one may think and after even a short time in the business it is not for everyone and most resign and go into another line of work citing, “its just not worth the pain.”
How many firefighters do you hear getting arrested for D.U.I.? Well, a lot of them, so the question is why so? It is simple, they’re self medicating to get the pain to go away, whatever it takes just make it go away. They realize if they go to their doctor and he/she prescribes medication they may have to notify their employer because of its schedule. Most firefighters, say noway I am not going to tell on myself they would think I am crazy. Please remember my friends you’re not crazy, you may have post traumatic stress and there is help available out there for you. I friend of mine who was a paramedic for years has post traumatic stress and he finally went to the doctor to get help and guess what he feels so much better it is amazing.