“What are we supposed to do about that?”


I think we should all have discussions with ourselves and our crews on how we respond to psychological emergencies. We’ve all been dispatched to a psych emergency, whether we volunteer or work a shift schedule. So often we’ve heard or said the same things. “Why are we going? What can we do for them? They’re just looking for attention.” Sometimes worse things are said. These calls often come at the worst time for us. Maybe we’re in the middle of apparatus checks, training, or it’s 2 AM. We rarely blame the accident victim when we get toned to a rollover. We never blame the fire victim when we go to a building fire. Why is it that the psych eval call gets so much scrutiny. We should approach psych calls with the same care and tenderness that we approach victims of fires. 

When we respond to these emergencies complaining and with a salty attitude we intiaite our patient care on the wrong foot. These patients are already in a high state of anxiety. We often forget that most mental illnesses can be related back to a level of anxiety. Now imagine that level of stress and here comes 4 firefighters, 2 EMS personnel and a police officer approaching, all with an air of irritability. From the clinical stance, this is not going to start the patient’s care on the right foot. Often times we escalate the situation before we calm it down. If we approach the emergency with tenderness we can deescalate quickly and be back at the house much faster. These patients tend to need someone to talk to. Sometimes even yell at. If you allow them to do that, and interject your own thoughts after they have their chance to speak, you’ve opened a dialog that creates a a respectful atmosphere, which is all these patients likely needed in the first place. 

Now let’s think on ourselves. 4 firefighters, 2 EMS, a cop all respond. 7 people with 7 different personallities, dealing with 7 different issues, and approaching the emergency with 7 different biases. What we fail to see in each other is the fact that someone, maybe more, that is responding to the incident is likely dealing with a similar issue themselves. Depression and anxiety aren’t terribly uncommon. Our profession is not filled with people are the exception to this. We’ve simply decided that we must ACT like we are the exception. That the issues that we respond to do not affect us, that we aren’t diagnosed ourselves with these same medical problems. So when we say the things mentioned above we are likely saying those things to some one in the rig with us without realizing it. And yet we all smile, moan or complain. We all agree with one another. We all act like we’re the exception. Once we are honest with ourselves, and with the those around us, we can start to be honest with the people we serve. This is how I believe we can reach a higher level of care. We can start to be the ones that our crew will say “She’s really good with these calls.” 

Our attitudes toward these calls ultimately reflect our attitudes toward one another. If we can’t treat our neighbors and citizens with a decent level of care, how can we trust one another to do the right thing for us when we are in need. We don’t have to print a giant banner or write our problems in the sky but don’t be afraid to open the dialog for yourself or another. If nothing else it may help us be better patient advocates which makes us better at our jobs. And who doesn’t want to be seen as good at their job. 

Timothy ColeTimothy, TNFFSN