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"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

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"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

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DanSun Photoart written

Daniel Sundahl

Artist / Firefighter / Paramedic/ Public Speaker and Traveller


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 15 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.


DanSun

All images © 2011-2019 DanSun PhotoArt



Standing on the Shoulders of the Fallen

This demon skull represents stigma, shame, fear, OSI and PTSD; the pheonix represents recovery and mental wellness. I hope that one day, this demon will be defeated, and this phoenix will be prominent in all areas of emergency services.

This piece honours all of our fallen brothers and sisters who have fallen to their mental injuries. It's their sacrifice that fuels my passion and desire to eliminate the ignorance and stigma of psychological trauma that still seems to be so prominent.



Invasion

It's the space between day and night when they come.


When my consciousness fades away to sleep, and I can no longer defend my mind.


These organic monsters invade my psyche and fill it with images and emotions of horror and fright while I rest.


When I wake the residue of fear, terror and dread linger until I'm able to rebuild my mental defences.


I stay awake as long as possible, so I can fall asleep quickly - when the space between day and night is small.


I used to look forward to sleeping, but now it scares me.



Torn

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.



Peer Support

Managers, supervisors and peers can have a profound effect on both recovery and severity of impairment post mental injury. Let's have each other's backs and look out for each other.


Meat In a Seat

Why would you work your butt off for a service that tells you, ”I can replace you with any one of the many people lined up to take your job, if you don’t like it, there’s the door”? – And how’s that beneficial for your mental well being to work in an environment like that? I figure you have three choices:


1. Make positive changes in your workplace, but be smart about it. Do your research and explain to your supervisors why these changes will benefit everyone in the service -including them.


2. Change your perspective about your workplace. Try to limit who gets your f*cks and walk away from negative chitter chatter. Be selective of who and what gets your attention and energy.


3. You can quit and find an employer who appreciates and values your skills and experience.


I’ve met and corresponded with thousands of my peers from all over the world, and I’ve learned that a significant contributing factor to job-related stress is a toxic work environment. Many of the services I’ve visited have implemented excellent, preventative mental health programs that have benefited the mental wellbeing of their employees – others view their workers as just ”meat in a seat” to fill a gap in the schedule. Increased staff retention, performance, engagement, and decreased sick time are only a few of the benefits of making your team feel valued and appreciated. 



Flight

There's not enough space to do CPR in a helicopter - unless you only need to use your fingertips.


Walk your Demon


Do you walk your demon or does it walk you? For me, it's a bit of both. When I travel to exhibit my art and speak about post-traumatic growth, I share the steps I've taken to reconfigure my mind and become stronger and healthier than I was before my impairment. I think the impression I sometimes give is that people who are experiencing this growth are always in this state of happiness and well being. For me, there's good days and bad, the difference is that when I wake up and feel crappy, I recognize it as a chemical change in my brain and do things to correct it. Getting out of bed, going for a walk, watching a movie, exercising or doing something I wouldn't usually do that day helps me get out of my slump.


Most of the time I'm like the medic on the left of this image. Although that demon is collared, he's always trying to escape and attack me. This time I'm ready for him.


When the Devil comes

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.


Hang On

Hang On

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 



Hero

Hero

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.


North Dakota


Post Traumatic Growth

There’s a lot of work being done to build resiliency and shorten recovery time from mental injuries…which is great. Our goal is to get back to where we were before, get there quickly and build resilience so it’s less likely to happen again – but what if we could be better than before?


A number of literatures, religions, and philosophies throughout human history have conveyed the idea that there is personal gain to be found in suffering. A re-wiring of your mind that is a result of the healing process may make you the best you ever. Not only to recover but to thrive! Post traumatic growth isn’t about recovery, it’s about reconfiguration that results in changes in self perception, perspectives on life and changes in relationships. Do you want to remain impaired? Or do you want to do the necessary healing work to rewire your brain and thrive?


This image shows a Phoenix growing from the paramedic as he transforms his broken mind and thrives to become a better man than he was before his injury. Our goal shouldn’t be to recover, it should be to reconfigure and thrive. Have a safe week everyone.


Stigma

The day we feel as comfortable reporting a mental injury as we do reporting a physical injury is the day this demon loses her power. Our employers must be equally ready to accept this and know how to react as the worker is to report it. 



Fear & Shame

If I was physically injured saving someone from a fire everyone would see me as a hero. What if I was mentally injured saving someone? Would everyone still see me as a hero? Would you have any hesitation reporting a mental injury over a physical injury? I think many of us would.


Why is that? It's because of fear, shame and embarrassment. The sad part is that if some of us do report a mental injury we are blackballed, looked upon as weak and are victims of the negative stigma. This is preventing many of us from getting the help we need which makes the mental injury even worse.


The idea for this image was given to me by Matt McGregor, a firefighter from Western Canada and it's a concept many of us can relate to. The fear, shame, embarrassment and negative stigma is this demon's power and it's preventing many first responders from getting the help they need. Deny this demon his power by standing up to the negative stigma.


Sorry

103 firefighters died by suicide in 2017, compared to 93 firefighter line-of-duty deaths, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization that fights for the rights of people with disabilities. The study also found that little has been done to address PTSD and depression in responders, even though they are five times more likely than civilians to suffer from symptoms.


I'm sure not all of these suicides are the result of work related mental injuries but I'm also sure that there were many other firefighter suicides that were not part of this study. In one survey of over 1,000 active and retired firefighters, nearly half of respondents stated that they had considered suicide, which is over three times the rate of the general population, and 16 percent had actually attempted suicide, as compared to 2–9 percent of the general population.


Most firefighters will study line of duty deaths to learn what went wrong, we'll listen to audio tapes of the call and train to prevent similar events from happening in the future. I wish as much energy was given to prevent firefighter suicides. When I first heard these stats I was blown away, why aren't we doing more to prevent these deaths? I know many departments have started mental health initiatives which is fantastic but I would think more would do the same after hearing these statistics.


I called this piece Sorry. Several first responders on the edge of taking their lives have told me that they don't wish to die, they don't want to leave their families but they feel suicide is their only option for peace. It's very sad and I wish more was being done for our brothers and sisters to prevent these tragic deaths. 


The In Between


EMS Women

When I have people come to my gallery they sometimes ask me why some of my images are so graphic. This question is almost always asked by a non-first responder. They assume I’m adding the trauma and gore for a gratuitous effect.


I explain to them that this is the reality of our job. I explain to them that what they see in my work is what I actually saw on that call and in many cases it was much worse. If you are a non-first responder looking at this image imagine what this scene was like before this suicidal patient was sedated. Imagine the noise this patient made while trying to scream without a jaw, imagine trying to keep your shit together as a medic trying to save this persons life.


There’s nothing gratuitous about this image, this is what we see and this is what we do…and we love it.

I also wanted to create another image for my EMS sisters who kick ass in this job and who are just as good and in many cases better than some men I know doing this job.


Stay safe everyone.

Respectfully,


DanSun 



The Firefighter


Peaceful Mind

My mind is always racing. I try to keep it controlled but I often find it’s on its own thinking about seemingly random things. A Buddhist monk would say I have a ‘Monkey Mind’. It’s not so bad except for when I sleep. At night it’s no longer restrained by my conscious mind and it’s allowed to run amok. I rarely sleep well and often when I wake I’m overcome with a feeling of dread. Luckily I can’t remember but know in the evening my brain was overflowing with nightmares.


I’ve been told a mind that never stops is a common symptom creative people share, is that it? Then why the nightmares? Could this be a result of 15 years working on the ambulance? I’m curious if any other paramedics, fire fighters or police officers have this problem.


This image shows an angel telling a paramedic to just relax, it’s going to be okay, I’ve got your back. Chill the f*** out!


I crave solitude


I crave a peaceful mind


I crave a good nights sleep


I crave silence and peace of mind 



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