"...and that's how a picture is worth a million words!!! Amazing"
- Firefighter, Houston
"This is amazing!!Never stop doing such amazing art!!"
- Paramedic, Perth, Australia
"Your book was given to me as a gift for my birthday about a month ago. I was so excited to get through the pages to see more pics, but I was so overcome with emotions that I have tucked away for years and years , it took me almost 2 weeks to finish it. It is the most beautiful gift I have ever been given. The way you capture images shows so much intensity, so much emotion and feeling. You get right to the heart of why I do this job and love it, and hate it, so much. The raw emotion is almost too much at times, but I also needed this reminder of how much I really do love this job. I almost gave up and threw in he towel, but after reading your book I felt so refreshed to know someone understands how intense day to day can really be. I thank you, and am looking forward to your next book !!" - Jodi Beck, EMT
"Every time i see one of your amazing works of art my stomach flips, after 30 years in EMS they bring back so many memories" - Paramedic, NYC
I've been fortunate enough to live in several countries and experience many cultures from around the world. Travel....Music....Photography...Art, throw in a little Paramedic work and Firefighting for excitement and that's me.
I'm passionate about raising mental health awareness for first responders, many of these images are based on real calls I've attended over a 17 year career as a full time paramedic and firefighter. I put a lot of emotion in my work and as you look through these images you may connect with them if you're a fellow first responder. If you've never worked in emergency services then these images will give you a glimpse into our world.
Thanks for visiting my page and feel free to use the 'contact me' link above if you would like to get in touch.
All images © 2011-2020 DanSun PhotoArt
I need to applaud the Ontario Provincial Police Department (O.P.P.) They recently shared a 91-page independent review of how they plan to create a more psychologically healthy work environment for their 5,700 uniformed officers, 2,600 civilian employees and 700 auxiliary officers. Tragically, since January 2012, 17 members are known to have died by suicide, including three this year. Here’s a summary of some of the findings and recommendations:
- Leadership and organizational responsibility for wellness and positive workplace culture are required.
- Wellness as an organizational priority requires dedicated resources.
- Leadership is a critical element in workplace culture. - Leadership impacts wellness.
- People-focused leadership is required.
- Cultural change requires the prioritization of leadership skills.
- A promotional process should be transparent and support people-focused leadership.
- Cronyism, nepotism and favouritism need to be eliminated from the hiring and promotional process.
- Mental health services should be accessible and credible. - Regular engagement with members and families is required to support wellness.
- Accommodation and return to work must be de-stigmatized and meaningful.
- Managers must be provided with training on the return to work process to help members return to the workplace without fear of stigma, ostracization or reprisal.
- Positive workplace culture requires trusted oversight and ongoing dialogue.
- The leadership priority on wellness must extend to budgetary and operational staffing decisions.
- Staffing and scheduling require a wellness lens and a strategic approach.
- Leadership skills, including ‘people’ skills, empathy, interpersonal skills, and resiliency, should be prioritized as essential skills for promotions at every level.
- The number of clinicians and service models available to provide mental health services should be increased, and new options explored.
This is the second report/study I’ve seen in less than a month that emphasizes the importance of non-traumatic stressors on the emergency services community. It’s great that an emphasis on controllable stress factors is emerging. Although this study is specific to the O.P.P., I think it’s a reflection of many services. Read the full review here and let me know if you think your service could benefit from the recommendations.
Over the past several years, I’ve spoken with thousands of my peers from all over the world. We talk about protocols, mental health, trauma, recovery, resiliency and causes of mental injuries. Non-traumatic organizational factors is a common theme mentioned when I hear about their stressors. We seem to focus on trauma exposure when talking about PTSD and other aspects of poor mental health, but what are some of the other, controllable, contributing factors to our mental wellbeing?
On February 14th, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a paper titled Assessing the Relative Impact of Diverse Stressors among Public Safety Personnel. The results of this study that included 4441 respondents showed that non-traumatic workplace stressors appear to be MORE critical than trauma exposure for poor mental health in emergency workers. Some of the non-traumatic factors included:
Dealing with co-workers
The feeling that different rules apply to different people (e.g., favouritism)
Excessive administrative duties
Constant change in policy/legislation
Perceived pressure to volunteer free time
Dealing with supervisors
Inconsistent leadership style
Leaders over-emphasize the negatives
Feeling like you always have to prove yourself to the organization
Why are the results of this study so relevant? We can’t control the traumatic factors of our job, but we can change the non-traumatic elements. The ‘Station Stress’ we receive, which, according to this study, is a more accurate predictor of our mental health than the trauma we experience, can be mitigated by changes in our work environments. The conclusion of this study recommends policy makers should explore ways to minimize station stress in support of emergency workers by creating a psychologically safe workplace. Simply put – Validate, Support and Understand. If you’re a manager, supervisor or chief officer I strongly suggest you download a full copy of the paper here: https://res.mdpi.com/…/i…/article_deploy/ijerph-17-01234.pdf
Like whiffing too much perfume until you can't smell anything, too much trauma numbs our emotions until we can't feel anymore. Joy, happiness and excitement abandon us, and we're left with depression, anxiety and fear. The irony is, when we're in our deepest darkness, we crave not to feel anything anymore and want to stop everything. We're left scraped out and hollowed.
We need to be restarted and jolted back into the person we used to be, but it's near impossible to do without help. Ask for the help you need and deserve.
Stay safe everyone, and let's look out for each other.
I’m very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to travel, exhibit my artwork and speak about mental health for first responders. When I travel, I always make a point to meet as many of my peers as I can and ask them about their mental health and support programs available to them. I try to get an accurate sense of their challenges, why they feel the way they do and what they do to overcome it. This is what I’ve learned:
A complete mental wellness program includes three components, preventative (peer support), critical incident response (CISM), and reintegration. It’s also important that these three programs work seamlessly together and in unison. Peer support to minimize and recognize mental trauma early, CISM to manage the acute mental injuries, and reintegration to get the employee back to work. Reintegration, by the way, isn’t just preparing the worker; it’s also educating managers and coworkers on what to do and not do to help integrate their brothers and sisters back to becoming effective emergency workers.
I’ve also learned that the sense of support comes down to three feelings. Feeling supported, feeling understood and feeling validated. Being told to “suck it up” makes us feel unsupported and misunderstood. Being told “that call wasn’t that bad” makes us feel invalidated. Being told “if you can’t hack it then get out” makes us feel unsupported, misunderstood and invalidated. Feeling this way prolongs recovery, costs the employer more money and potentially digs a hole so deep some of us never recover. I’m very proud of how far we have come when it comes to mental wellbeing awareness for emergency workers but there’s still a long, long, long way to go before we figure out how to properly tame this monster.
Be safe everyone and let's look out for each other.
Some of you may not understand the concept of this image. The idea of suicide being a cozy blanket would be a foreign thought to a healthy mind. For those of us who have dealt with a constant barrage of dreadful thoughts and feelings, just want a reprieve from it all. Suicide isn't meant to end a life; it's intended to stop the constant attack of depression, shame, insecurity and guilt - Just turn it all off, feel nothing and be at peace.
The problem lies in the altered mind and chemical changes that shroud the alternate solution. This is where the devil gets his power, he's the master of lies and convinces us there's no other way. He makes us believe suicide is like a cozy blanket that will make all the pain go away. Don't listen to him, there's another way. Start by simply asking for help.
Stay safe, everyone and let's lookout for eachother.
When you've reached the point where you just don't give a shit anymore, and you would just rather not feel anything - then that's when support from your family, supervisors and peers has the most impact.
There's not enough space to do CPR in a helicopter - unless you only need to use your fingertips.
When the Devil comes When the Devil came to me, he didn't have horns and a pitchfork. He was methodical at changing my perceptions and made me believe I was weak and different than my peers. Not only did the Devil make me think death was a good escape, but he also made me desire it like a warm cozy blanket that would make all my emotions disappear. He gave me a solution but was also the cause of all my worries, and that's how he manipulated me.
Like the medic in this image, I welcomed the sweet life of suicide and almost surrendered myself to this monster. I'm lucky, I was able to peek behind the curtain and realize how much trouble I was in. I received the help I needed, and it saved my life. If you're in the grips of this demon get help to escape his manipulation and live the life you deserve.
Often we're so surprised when a first responder takes their life. They show no signs of struggle or of the pain they're in. I know what it's like because I was there once myself. We're afraid that others will perceive us as being weak and we get very good at hiding our torment and agony from our family and co-workers. I call this the 'false okay' and have created a few images portraying this state of mind.
Here are a few signs and symptoms that may be a clue that things aren't as okay as they seem:
-Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
-Withdrawn and distant -Irritable behaviour, angry outburst, or acting aggressively
-Taking too many risks or doing things that could cause them harm
-Being jumpy or easily startled
The next first responder suicide may be closer to home than you think. I think it's worth the risk to ask a co-worker or family member if they're okay - and when they undoubtedly say "I'm fine" - ask them again but look them in the eye and tell them why you're asking. Give examples of the changes in behaviour that you've noticed. Tell them it's okay, and you will listen if/when they want to talk. Comfort will come from feeling accepted and engaged so offer to just hang out if they're not ready to talk. Here's a good article on how to help someone with PTSD from helpguid.org https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/helping-someone-with-ptsd.htm
Real heroes don't have super powers or get paid millions to play sports. Real heroes risk their own physical and mental well being to save others.