Crying For Help

Over the past few days I have seen some news items that really point out the need for more comprehensive mental health assistance.  Between the situations with the firefighter threatening his co-workers in Kansas City and the police standoff with ex-Notre Dame defensive coordinator Corwin Brown at his home near South Bend, the subject seems to come up again and again.

Without a doubt, issues of mental health seem to  have always been one of those sensitive issues that no one would talk about.  However, there was an article in Sports Illustrated this past week about the Miami Dolphins' Brandon Marshall in which he has been candid about his mental health challenges.  His bravery in discussing the subject openly has been refreshing, as it is a message to others who have issues that they are not alone, and that seeking help is not a sign of weakness.

Any admission of mental incapacity is traditionally stigmatized but it really shouldn't be.  Mental health problems originate from a number of different sources, but especially now in our nation, everyone is subject to being overwhelmed.  The stress that I can personally sense with a number of people I know is higher than I have ever known it to be and I'm positive that anyone reading this probably knows their share of individuals who are struggling as well.  Between the roller coaster ride our economy is on, the overwhelming number of jobless, foreclosures, environmental disasters, terrorism, and other world wide concerns, even if you are normally pretty stable, in these times pretty much anything could be the final straw.

We spoke of inordinate stress reactions before in this forum, like back with the massacre in Arizona where a firefighter failed to respond to this incident.  There were plenty of people who were quick to judge but had no idea what the basic issues were.  I don't even know that we still have all the answers.  But while today you may feel like you have a grip on things, tomorrow could be the beginning of the end of your current world.  I heard a figure the other day that said that one out of every seven Americans right now is on the food stamp program.  I'm watching Dateline NBC as I am writing this, where Lester Holt is doing a piece on three women in Millen, GA and the effect the economic recession is having on this small town.

It's easy to be smug about how good your life is when things are going well.  It's easy to think that someone who is having a major crisis should just suck it up, because really, how bad can it be? Well, it is a testament to the maturity level of some of the trolls who prowl the web as to how quick they question someone's integrity because, say, they aren't half the Superman they happen to be.  Frankly, I have met some of the individuals who make statements that parallel the "We fight what you fear" mentality and you know, I question their sanity and their ability to fight fire more than anyone who has the courage to admit they need some help.

There is a dividing line between those who need institutional care and those who are in the midst of a crisis.  And while the grand arena is "mental health" and I am in no way qualified or knowledgeable to discuss the differences, there is an obvious need for people to be compassionate and understanding, because today's bad day could be tomorrow's nightmare.  Don't be so quick to make statements that question someone's dignity just because they have hit a wall.  I hope to never face those challenges myself and I hope you don't ever have to either.  If you need help, get help. And if you know someone who needs help, be a real leader and do what you can do to compassionately point them in the right direction.

  • B. Morgan

    I responded to the Value Jet crash in the Everglades  two days in a row. On the third day I told my supervisor no,  find some one else, I was beyond my stress points.  He puffed up and said, " Be a man about it, it's our job!"  I went on to explain to him I had been responding to plane crashes for 20 years and had reached my limit .  He continued on about it was our job to be tought. I left and took some leave to get re-adjusted.  
    It's the responsibility of both the leader and co-workers to watch each other for signs of  stress and then take healing steps to help out the people who are suffering.   It can be  as simple as a few kind words or  some paid time off and professional help.  There is nothing wrong with having seen to much of a bad thing and needing a break away from it.   
    I went back to responding to plane crashes and other nasty evens. The supervisor was asked to assist in a nasty recovery and was suddendly unaviliable. I never asked him why, we all have our limits.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Deputy Fire Chief - Operations Division for Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services  National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.
Recent Posts
Heard This Story Before? August 24, 2014
Jumping Through Hoops August 4, 2014
Questioning Heroism July 13, 2014
Compassion July 2, 2014
Colin Fanning
The Roto-Ray: Beauty or Beast?
One of the most important facts we reviewed when deciding on the roto ray purchase was this; With the speeds of traffic on SC 278, by the time people heard the sirens on our fire trucks our light bars (on top of the roof) were out of sight. The roto ray, with its mounted location…
2014-07-25 15:07:00
Mick Mayers
Questioning Heroism
Thanks, Bryan! I genuinely believe I do and they tend to reward me with professionalism, innovation, and compassion to our citizens daily. That's something I am happy to facilitate.
2014-07-15 04:10:00
Bryan G. Riebe
Questioning Heroism
Chief, appreciated in your response to Geoff that you work for the FFs. Believe if more Chiefs lived that philosophy our fire services would be bastions of honor, ethics, and human potential.
2014-07-15 00:05:00
Christopher Roy
Questioning Heroism
Geoff, EMS, as its own service, does not have a strong voice and in turn, does not get the respect in the media/public that it does deserve. I do hope that changes. EMS doesn't have a home either, and that doesn't help. There are so many different delivery methods in this country that its probably…
2014-07-14 23:49:00
Mick Mayers
Questioning Heroism
I'm sorry you feel that way, Geoff. The department I work with has been doing EMS (advanced care AND transport) with cross-trained personnel for over twenty years and doing a pretty good job. Our community expects a certain level of service that we have been able to provide through that model and while not every…
2014-07-14 22:01:00

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Although I am affiliated or employed by certain entities, I in no way speak in this forum or others on behalf of those entities unless I have specifically stated such. Any implication otherwise is doing so contrary to my agreements with those entities. The result is that the observations and opinions by myself or on behalf of Firehouse Zen are not sanctioned by any other entity other than Graffiti Train Sherpa Publications and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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