Just An Observation: Stigma against mental health must change

Finding ways to help with mental health stresses, especially for first responders, is a must

There isn’t a day that goes by where stress isn’t a part of everyone’s life.

Whether it’s the way a job is, struggles on a personal or professional level, having a busy life or dealing with health challenges, the majority of people have found ways to cope — some adequate and some not.

First, let’s start off at the beginning.

Stress is the mental or emotional strain or tension that results from adverse or extremely demanding circumstances and it can be both bad or good.

Now, stress isn’t normally long term — such as a hard task at work or giving it your all during a game. However, when that stress turns into a chronic situation, something is constantly putting a person’s mind and body into acting on it, that’s where problems begin to occur.

For the majority of the public, it can be fairly simple to counteract those real-life effects: getting the right amount of sleep, get active and enjoy it, get back to finding something that can help with relaxing, having a better, more healthy diet and learning through the senses of what is triggering the stress then trying to eliminate or lessen them.

Unfortunately, especially in certain professions, there are people that struggle with the stresses of the job or life away from it. Those are the ones that seem to be making the news headlines and the obits far too often as of late.

Who I’m mostly speaking of are the people that are witness to dramatic, tragic, horrible and downright disturbing incidents. Firefighters, EMS and police officers are the first that comes to people’s minds, but let’s not forget some others like nurses and doctors, tow truck operators, military personnel, social and mental health workers as well as those who work in the justice system, from judges and clerks to sheriffs and correctional officers.

All of these individuals work in high stress environments — even if they are part-time or volunteers — and face some of the most challenging instances out there with a calmness and professionalism that leaves the people they deal with usually in awe of how well they get the job done.

What isn’t seen is the work that goes on after the incident.

The chats with colleagues or supervisors to get certain things off their mind to help them not to think about it for the next three days. How they mull it over and look at what could have been done differently, especially if the outcome was bad for the individual they were helping. What goes on inside, mentally and physically, as the stressful incidents pile up as the years go on and how it can seem to all of a sudden arrive at the surface, leading to the loss of a job, a relationship or their life.

And it’s that very last part that people see and can’t understand what went so wrong that it pushed someone into something so drastic and final.

How does someone close to them not notice or why didn’t they talk to someone? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

The recent case of a Calgary firefighter demonstrates this — a model firefighter that was quick to talk to his crew in the aftermath of a call, but things turned on a dime that quickly spiraled until he took his own life on Nov. 11.

His fiance, a paramedic, knew what was going on and took action, but doctors failing to treat him properly combined with being unable to have him get help through work and the stress of other factors was too much to overcome. She stated his fear of what others at work would perceive him also held him back from getting the needed assistance.

And therein lies the real problem — there remains a stigma attached to ALL mental illness in this society. A fact that needs to change immediately, both in medical circles and industry, or this problem will continue to grow regardless of how much money is tossed at it.

But that is…just an observation.

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