Incident Commander

On the fire ground, the incident commander is the person who determines the outcome. With mental illness, you too are in command of the results.

Jonathan Arenburg
Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan is a mental health blogger, published author, and speaker. He has appeared in numerous newspapers and has been a guest on many podcasts.

Anyone who has been in the fire service knows that fire-scene incidents can range in size and severity. Regardless of size, there’s almost always one person at the helm. Known as the incident commander, their job is to be “the” person who brings the incident a conclusion that minimizes damage and loss.

Doing so takes a high level of experience and education. This will help the IC to best predict where the fire will go and what tactics work best to efficiently extinguish the fire. In other words, they need to get a handle on the incident – quickly, and before it gets a handle on them and thus everyone on the fire ground.

The officer in charge or the incident commander is generally good at staying a step ahead of their enemy; they have to be. and structure is fundamental. This is arguably more important on bigger calls.

Essentially, you have sector officers, safety officers, accountability officers and more – all of whom need to be put in place to ensure that what needs to be done, actually gets done. Breaking a large scene down into smaller sections is paramount if you are going to be successful.

But that’s not all! You need water supply, staging areas for firefighters, efficient communication systems and firefighter rescue teams at the ready.

Of course, I could go on, but I think you get the point. Viewing a fire scene from a distance, all you might see is a disorganized shit show. However, it is actually a well-coordinated and well-oiled machine. We like to call it organized chaos.

How does this relate to mental illness?

Well, on the surface it seems like it has absolutely nothing in common with the incident-commander analogy. However, I will do my best to explain.

Remember when I said that it’s imperative for the incident commander to get a handle on the fire? If not, the fire will get away from them? Their job is to tame that beast and prevent it from destroying lives.

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In comparison, we can ask ourselves: who’s got a handle on our own mental-health emergency? Using myself as the example – am I the one in command of my illness, or is my illness the one in charge of me?

For example, PTSD is a four-alarm fire and whether you like it or not, you’re in it for the long haul. And like that of being an incident commander on the fire ground, you’re it – there is no going home. Nor can you afford to ignore it; if you were to, the fire would propagate and grow out of control.

Like that of the Incident Commander, you’re it – there is no way around it.

Similarly, you are it, the incident commander in charge of what you do to mitigate the damage done by your mental illness. You get to call in the resources needed: psychotherapy, a fitness instructor, a psychiatrist. They can help you get a handle on your mental health. After all, you know these are the tools one needs to minimize the psychological damage, right? Besides, not calling in what you need for resources on the fire ground would be disastrous and irresponsible.

Front and back cover of the road to mental wellness - 8 sings your relationship is hurting your mental health.
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So, who’s got a handle on you? The four-alarm fire that rages inside of you, or the officer in charge of getting better? Own this incident, my friend, for it is the most important call of your life.

If you are struggling, please go here for help: Crisis Services Canada

Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental health blogger, S speaker, writer, and published author; He is also the host of the mental wellness podcast, #thewellnesstalksHe has also appeared in the i'Mpossible's Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental health talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has also written for the mental health advocacy organization; Sick Not Weak.Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts Including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files, Books and Authors, and Men Are Nuts. Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental wellness journey while helping others along the way.Educated as an addictions' counsellor, he has dedicated most of his professional life of eighteen years, working with those who have intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges, and mental illness.He has also spent fifteen years in the volunteer fire service helping his community.His new book (2021), “The Road To Mental Wellness,” goes into detail about his life-long battle with depression, anxiety and more recently, PTSD. In it, he hopes to provide insight on how mental illness cultivates over a lifetime and, if not recognized and treated, how it impacts the entirety of one's life; right from childhood into the adult years. Jonathan lives with his two children in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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