Unfortunately, encountering loss is part of the job for a Public Safety employee. Whether it's the loss of a child, stranger or colleague, Public Safety employees can experience multiple tragedies in a relatively short period. Repeated exposure to aversive details of traumatic events can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because Public Safety employees often have duties to carry out immediately following a death, you may grieve differently than others. It's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of PTSD while having access to support and an outlet to cope after a potentially traumatic event.
One of the most effective ways to process the aftermath of a traumatic call is to have a strong support system on the job. Your brothers and sisters understand potentially traumatic events and the effect these types of events can have on you mentally and emotionally. You must work as a team every day in your regular duties and you can also work as a team to keep an eye on each other's mental health.
If you consider yourself in recovery from a mental health or substance use disorder, you may be interested in using your recovery experience to assist others who are struggling. As a Public Safety employee in recovery, you have a valuable perspective that may benefit others. not only do you understand the stressors of the job, but what it takes to ask for help in an occupation that has traditionally not recognized the importance of behavioral health.
Here are some ways a Public Safety employee in recovery can support others who are struggling with behavioral health challenges:
- Simply share your experience. It may help to counter stigma.
- Reach out to a distressed colleague to show you care.
- Connect a distressed colleague to your peer support team if he/she is willing to talk.
- Join your Department's peer support team or employee assistance program.
- Serve as a sponsor in a 12-step program.
- Consider starting a support group.
When you recently completed treatment, it can be a vulnerable time. As you transition back to your normal schedule at work and home, allow yourself at least six months to stay focused on self-care and aftercare participation as your number one priority. If you're in recovery from substance use, additional time may be needed. Those who have dealt with their own behavioral health challenges may be naturally drawn to assist others and this is a good thing! However, it's critically important to fully assess your own stage of recovery before shifting your focus to help others. Check with your local mental health care provider first to determine if it is the right time to assist others.