The Thirsty Horse
The Thirsty Horse
I've heard several emergency services managers say that if their employees don't come to them for mental health support than there's nothing else they can do. They have lots of programs in place and CISM teams ready in case they're needed but how are they suppose to help if the crews don't ask for it? It's the "you can lead a horse to water but can't make them drink" problem.
I think a different approach is needed when dealing with mental health and well being of emergency workers. Applying the same tools used for physical injuries may not always work. I prefer to compare it to fishing. The fish won't jump in your boat, you need to net them.
Here's are some initiatives that I've seen other departments use to help their employees before it's too late.
- Officers and supervisors trained to recognize behavioural changed that may be indicative of mental strain and injury. This also helps lower the negative stigma at the management level.
- A tracking system to monitor high acuity calls that can cause or contribute to a mental injury. A peer support member reviews the list and checks in with workers that have had a high number of bad calls over a short time- or an automatic call is indicated in cases of severely stressful calls.
- An easy, safe and stress-free way for workers to ask for help. A tick box at the end of an electronic PCR asking to be contacted by a peer support member, easy access to psychological support or a short form filled out and handed to a peer member or trusted supervisor are methods used by other departments.
- A peer support team member on every shift that works with everyone else. This person can be specifically trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental stresses and check in with co-workers if changes in behaviour appear. The more peer support members, the better.
- Include mental health awareness as part of recruit training and what to do in case of psychological injury.
The problem isn't leading the horse to water, it's recognizing the horse is thirsty. Sometimes he doesn't know how thirsty he is because his capacity has been altered.
Share in the comments if your department is utilizing any mental health and well-being initiatives that you think are working.
Have a safe week everyone.
A special thanks to my EMS sister Jessica van der Hoek and her horse Dudley for helping me with this photo session.
From Emergency Response Portraits