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  #21  
Old 12-15-2015, 01:11
NorCalMike NorCalMike is offline
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

I spent the last two years experiencing depression and anxiety. My job performance went to crap and I called in sick a lot. Got in trouble for sick leave abuse. Got written up for insubordination and a bunch of other stupid stuff.

A couple of months ago I began having nightmares and intrusive thoughts. I would have outburst of extreme anger of the smallest things. My road rage got way worse. I began reliving calls I hadn't thought about in years. I was spirally downhill pretty quick. Luckily for me, my wife who has 20 years experience as an ER nurse noticed how bad I was getting. She forced me to see my doctor. I also contacted our Employee Assistance program (EAP). The EAP was worthless. They sent me a list of 10 counselors with no experience dealing with first responders.

My wife got me an appointment with a therapist she knows. He had no experience with first responders. When he asked me to describe my nightmares, I could see the shock on his face when I described them to him. He was no help. I spent the next four days in such severe depression that I didn't move off the couch. My wife who is now a nurse case manager search for a therapist that worked with first responders. He worked with my doc to get me on some antidepressants and began therapy.

Now after a couple of months I am starting to come out of the depression. I am continuing with therapy. I am sleeping again. I feel some much better. The future looks better to me now.

Why would I tell you all this? Because I was one of the those guys would never admit when a call bother me. I wouldn't participate in CISM. I was tough and could handle this. This worked for 20 years. Then I just couldn't deal with it. I wish I was so stupid. If I had sought treatment when first began having symptoms of depression, it is likely that I wouldn't have ended up with full blown PTSD.

Here is the worst part. There were plenty of people at my department who could see that I was having problems. The guys I worked with every day knew something was wrong. HR saw someone who hardly used sick leave all of a sudden taking multiple sets off at a time. No one did anything to find out was was going on. No one ever asked if I needed help or told me I should get help. They let me spiral out of control.

I don't know what would have happened if my wife didn't step in when she did. I don't know if I was headed to suicide but I can tell you that I hated my life. I hated the way I felt. I might have eventually put a bullet in my head. I don't know.

So the moral of the story is If you see someone whose behavior has changed, starts using a lot of sick leave, starts isolating themselves or anything else, say something to them. Ask them if they need help. Get them help. If you work in admin, find counselors who deal with first responders so you can refer someone. I can't believe how terrible the service from the EAP was.

Take a look at the Stress First Aid class for first responders at that NFFF has. It will give you some ideas about what to look for.

Any one having problems and wants to talk about it PM me. I will be glad to help.
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  #22  
Old 12-15-2015, 11:34
iwantafirecareer iwantafirecareer is offline
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

Thank you for sharing this.
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  #23  
Old 12-15-2015, 12:00
desertrunner303
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

Mike- Thank you for sharing this. It helps knowing youre not the only one out there. I also suggest contacting Kaiser or whoever your health care provider is for help as well. They usually offer counseling services.
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  #24  
Old 12-15-2015, 12:12
KnuckleDragger KnuckleDragger is offline
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

I'm glad the future is looking better for you Mike. I'm sure you are just gonna be stronger now and more than likely help others out who are going through similar stuff for the rest of your career.
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  #25  
Old 12-15-2015, 13:48
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BadKitty BadKitty is offline
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

Mike, you are a courageous man for sharing your story with us. I hope that your words will reach someone who needed to hear them.
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  #26  
Old 12-15-2015, 14:51
care1981 care1981 is offline
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

It could happen to any of us and at any point.
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  #27  
Old 12-15-2015, 16:03
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Tomdz Tomdz is offline
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

Mike stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam here.

So somewhere in your past when you wanted to be a firefighter you decided a big reason was because you wanted to help people. Yet for some reason firefighters have a reputation for not helping others in circumstances as Mike has described.

Well, here is Mike bucking that trend by helping other firefighters with his experience, strength, fear and hope. Paradigm shit and paradigm shift.
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  #28  
Old 12-15-2015, 18:27
NorCalMike NorCalMike is offline
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

Thanks for the kind words. It is not easy admitting struggling mentally but I think that it we as a group need to start talking about these things to destroy the stigma of mental illness. Research states that anywhere between 7% and 30% of firefighters suffer from PTSD symptoms. Admitting that I needed help was one of the hardest things I have done. It would have been much easier to self medicate with alcohol and painkillers or ending it all but those things would cause much more damage in the end. Maybe in the future I will post the full story.

Anyone having trouble should look at Code Green Campaign or the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.
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  #29  
Old 12-15-2015, 22:29
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JLV JLV is offline
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

You know....I had a recent experience with a dead 2 y.o. baby ran over in the driveway by her father. It was terrible and it still is in my head to this day. We had a CISD psych lady that came by and talked to us. They are so fucking fake and pretentious it is sickening, they pretend to give a fk and I just don't think it is authentic. This wanna be head shrink quack was worthless to talk to.

I could fill a book with the shit that bothers me but I have never seen a benefit to talking to these so called professionals. Unless they were there, they have no idea what they are trying to help with. No book or lecture can explain the emotional attachment to watching a father who just ran over his 2 y.o. baby asking for forgiveness over her dead body. This is something that will fk me up for the rest of my life.....no one can help me deal with that but me.
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Last edited by JLV; 12-15-2015 at 22:43.
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  #30  
Old 12-16-2015, 13:54
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Johnny Utah Johnny Utah is offline
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Default Re: Mental health crisis in the fire service

Try being married, thats enough mental stress.
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