by Frank Myers
Originally published in MultiBriefs
Depending on your particular type of career, there will be events that leave a lasting impression — especially among those of us who work in law enforcement, EMS/fire services or in a medical field. Even those who do not work in these particular fields can be affected. Examples include witnessing a cardiac arrest at work or seeing a motor vehicle accident where serious injuries or death occur while driving a personal vehicle.
As with anything, time is a great healer. Not trying to sound insensitive, but you sort of become "weathered" to particular events. Things that would affect me early in my career did not seem to have the lasting impression when the years passed and I had more time on the job.
I had to get over it if I was going to go home to my family, because I did not want to burden them with the events — especially when they involved death and gore or were unusually sad. This is always the case especially when it came to babies and children. Teenagers and young adults also can leave a lasting impression.
All machismo has to be set aside if you are having a hard time dealing with a particular experience. There is no place to tell anyone, "You are just not cut out for the job." You need to understand that it is a normal human reaction, and that some take it differently than others.
Critical Incident Stress Debriefings (CISD) teams need to be ready and available. We are not talking about psychotherapy here, just a place with others who will lend an ear and allow you to speak and get those emotions out and off your chest.
Confiding in loved ones who are willing to listen always can be an asset and help you to cope. In no way should you feel guilty or take responsibility for the event that occurred. Many times, as hard as we try, we are not always successful, and we need to leave it to the man upstairs (God) and say to ourselves, "It was their time to go."
This is one of the ways I learned to cope and learned to control my inner feelings and emotions. By finding time to pray and understand, I discovered that some things are just out of my control.
Supervisors need to know and understand the signs when an employee is not performing as usual. Besides tragic events, other outside events can trigger poor performance or change normal attitudes while at work. Family, money, alcohol, drug abuse, gambling or other conditions can contribute to feeling "blue."
These issues can be extremely sensitive. However, at some point, we need to confront the person or problem to assure that we can get our people the proper treatment and/or plan established to get back on track and moving in the right direction.
If necessary, change your environment temporarily. You may need to leave work and go home to give yourself a break. By no means should alcohol be abused to help get your mind off the recent occurrence — a little bit, yes, to take the edge off, but definitely not in excess.
Planning to take a ride with friends, going out to eat, surrounding yourself with good, caring people — friends or co-workers — are great ways to help you get your mind off things. The objective is to have a good time for a change.
Regardless of what method or approach, take advantage of the all resources available to you, either through your workplace, health insurance or confiding in family and talking to close friends/colleagues.
I liked to play golf, take a ride on my motorcycle or do some exercise to help relieve the stress and get my mind off the recent negative experience or personal issues that occurred at work. It goes a long way to help you recover. You need to be mentally healthy for your family and those who work around you and depend on your decisions.