This month’s EMS Dashboard Confessional is powerful and moving, and I will leave it here without comment. The issue of EMS provider wellness, mental health, and suicide prevention is going to be a primary issue, if not THE primary issue, that we will fight together for the next 20 years.
Recently, a full-time paramedic with my department took his own life. He was young and fairly new to EMS, and I had known him since he started his EMS career, and I considered him a friend.
Although we had been working with EAP, and this individual was going to counseling, he still took his own life. That was probably the most frustrating part of this process. We recognized the signs, hell, he even came to management with some personal concerns. We did what we thought was the right thing and it still didn’t prevent the worst possible outcome.
As for what I would do differently as an EMS Leader, I think it is important to realize that when something of this magnitude happens you must learn to take time for yourself and your team. I didn’t do that. You see, this happened in the middle of a very busy stretch for our department with community activities. We still had to “put on a face” and provide the top notch service that the community had come to expect. All the while, the pain, guilt, and frustration were eating me from the inside.
I was so busy taking care of the community, and our folks, that I didn’t take any time for myself and my management team. That proved to be a mistake later in the year as we then experienced a second suicide from within our agency. So, I hadn’t taken care of myself from the first suicide and now here we are, months later and having to deal with this again. It was very surreal, and at the same time provided a significant “gut check” about what I was doing as an EMS Manager.
If you or someone you know is thinking about or planning to take their own life, there is help 24/7:
- Talk to a trusted family member, coworker, friend, or a faith leader.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. Counselors are available 24/7 to provide free and confidential support.
- Text the Crisis Text Line – text “HOME” to 741741 Get immediate counseling and support through text messaging, anywhere in the U.S.
- Trevor Lifeline: LGBTQ Crisis Lifeline: 1-866-488-7368
- Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1
For additional resources, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s First Responders Page, or Code Green Campaign
Suicide is preventable