My cremate yesterday was telling me about how, the week before, he had gone to an infant death. The baby had been smothered by it’s mum while it slept in bed with her – a good advert for not sleeping with your baby in your bed.
This sparked up a discussion about how we cope with dealing with such tragedy. The truth is, there is no one way. We all manage it differently, but the conclusion is: we all cope.
I’ve seen my fair share of death and blood and guts, but sometimes it’s not that which makes you teary with emotion. Sometimes it can be the cancer patient having a crisis that can only be solved with hospital admission, even though they want to die in their own home. It can be the loneliness of an elderly man who hasn’t seen anyone for a week or more. It can be the tragic tales of how young people ended up homeless and the awful waste of life that inevitably follows.
Our coping mechanisms are individual to us, ambulance staff. Some people need no support and are able to ‘crack on’ with their day. Some need a debrief with their crew mate or and officer, a quick brew and then are able to continue working. Some may need to take the rest of the shift off, and possibly the shift after that, too.
“Generally”, we are well supported by the trust – not always mind you, some officers are not the best at dealing with situations like this – we are offered the chance for an assessment of our mental health to make sure we don’t acquire PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Me? I tend to be fine immediately after an ‘event’. I can have a chat with my crew mate and a cup of tea and be ready to carry on to finish my shift. It’s the next day it hits me. I tend to find that regular ‘road staff’ can offer better support than any officer who hasn’t really been operational for months and months, and they’ll ALWAYS be available for a chat.
An eloquent colleague described it thusly: “Each job takes a little ‘bite’ out of your wellbeing. Some days it’s just little nibbles, other days it’ll be a big chunk.” I wonder what happens when there’s nothing left to bite from…