The Collective Silence

Being gifted or cursed with a mind that likes to go into problem-solver mode whenever it’s presented with a problem that’s in need of solving, I find myself lost in a mindset that wants to remedy a situation – especially if it involves the struggles that people are facing. One thing I’ve learned? Nothing can be solved by the collective silence.
So when I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder,  I went to work – not only on my own personal battle with this debilitating mental-health condition but I set my mind to finding a way to minimize the damage to my colleagues in the fire service. What can be done to save people from the nightmares, flashbacks and fear associated with this disorder?
After some pondering, I eventually came to the conclusion that early intervention may be the key to mitigating this mostly-silent epidemic. I was so convinced that this was a great potential weapon against the traumatizing effects of PTSD  that I felt compelled to share it with my old station.
In my email, I recommended that a set number of firefighters be trained to recognize the early signs of trauma and assist vulnerable members with an ear that will listen, a form of peer support. More specifically though, these early interveners would also have the knowledge of the resources available so mentally-injured members could have access to the resources and professional help they need.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the biggest risk factors for developing PTSD is the lack of social support sufferers receive after a traumatic incident. In my view, this fact highlights the importance of having an in-house support structure, the earlier the better.
Sadly, the reply I received was, in short, that until the government does something, nothing can be done. Funny, we all join with a desire to help others in their moments of chaos but fall short of helping our brothers and sisters heal from their mental-illness injury, one that was likely caused by the very thing they signed up for.

Watch After the sirens (CBC) Here
This wash-your-hands approach leaves members out in the cold, feeling betrayed and unsupported by the very organization that claims it’s a tight-knit family. If this is the case, in many stations it could fit the definition for a dysfunctional one.
So, if lack of support is a factor in the development of PTSD, then why are we not working towards changing that? Why are we waiting for someone else to do something about it? Are we, as a “family,” not contributing and perpetuating this epidemic with our individual and collective silence?

If you are lacking the support that you need, try Project Trauma Support
In Crisis? Go to Crisis Services Canada
Contact me at

Categories: Fire Service, Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, Uncategorized

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