After more than 20 years in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), first as an inner city street paramedic, then as an inter-facility critical care paramedic (in a mobile intensive care unit) and then a paramedic instructor in the Middle East, I still hear these comments every time I tell someone what I do. After the appreciation for what I, and other emergency services personnel of all sorts (medics, police officers, fire fighters, soldiers, doctors and nurses) do for society there comes a fear, and often a fascination, about the conditions we work in.
It is stressful. Usually we handle the stress very well – in fact, we love it! It’s a part of our job, and it makes us feel alive. But sometimes the stress overwhelms us and causes dis-stress in our lives. We get tired, run down, depressed or angry. We can’t think straight and our bodies lose energy. People move away from us, they say “you’ve changed”. Life gets tough.
Psychotherapists of all sorts have been studying what happens when the stress gets to be ‘too much’. There are lots of different names and diagnoses for this condition, such as Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but they can all be described as ‘critical stress’.
Unfortunately, for most emergency workers there is a stigma about experiencing critical stress, and that makes it difficult to address. It’s hard to pay attention to critical stress if your work or home environment make it difficult to even admit it exists.
That’s why I made the resources section of this site. It’s here for you to explore what critical stress is and how to deal with it. You can do so in the privacy of your own home, station or office.
If you’re an emergency worker I’ve written down My Story for you to read. I will slowly be expanding the site to include more information about what critical stress is, and ways you can help yourself based on both the 2500 year old path of Eastern Contemplative Insight and the modern scientific path of Western Counselling Psychology. I’ve started here with the section For Emergency Workers, there are links to more essays in the drop-down menu at the top of the page. Also, take a look at the links on the Further Resources page for additional resources.
If you are a mental health professional, visit the For Therapists page for an introduction to cultural considerations in the counselling of emergency workers (particularly paramedics). If you are an emergency worker currently seeing a therapist, feel free to send them the link to this article if you think it might help. If you want to contact me, visit the Contact Marc page.
If you feel you would like more direct help I am available for free, online counselling as a part of the practicum for my MA in Counselling Psychology. You can find out more about that here.
As a last note, I’ve made this site specifically with emergency workers in mind, but the information here is useful for anyone experiencing critical stress, so whether or not you are an emergency worker, you are welcome here.
All the best to you in your journey. May you be happy.